To help accommodate for the large number of athletes and other students who participate in extracurricular activities at Petal High School, officials from the Petal School District have entered into a three-year contract to use the gym at Calvary Baptist Church, adjacent to the high school on Mississippi 42.
The move was approved at a recent meeting of the school district’s board of trustees by a unanimous vote.
“They have a gym right there at the back of their church, and their property butts up to our property,” school district superintendent Matt Dillon said. “So for proximity purposes, it makes a lot of sense to partner with them to have extra gym space.
“We’re a 6A high school with just one gym, and we have a lot of activities. With everybody trying to use the (gym at the school), it becomes very challenging with scheduling, with our daily classes and P.E., not to mention our basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, dance and indoor percussion. With all the different people wanting to use that facility, we need more space, so we’re going to partner with the church to rent (their gym).”
Per terms of the contract, which begins this school year, the school district will pay the church $500 a month for the use of the gym.
“We’re going to engage in that contract for now, and we’ll just kind of reassess and see where we’re at after that,” Dillon said.
According to numbers provided by Andrew Godbold from the high school, that campus is home to 1,170 students. Of those, 696 students participate in one activity, although not all of those require the use of the gymnasium.
Current activities at the high school include, but are not limited to, robotics, basketball, volleyball, STEM Club, band, Innovations, Soundsations, Art Club and student council.
“During the day, we have P.E. classes, so (with the church’s gym) we can spread out those classes and have multiple spaces,” Dillon said. “We have certain athletics during the day - such as girls’ and boys’ basketball - and sometimes they are scheduled at the same time and we don’t have the space to adequately accommodate everybody.
“So this will allow us to be able to do that. We have volleyball during the day as well as part of the academic schedule, and then after hours or when other groups need to use (the gym), we’ll have access to it then as well. We’re running out of space, so we’re having to look at using extra areas to accommodate our student body - for classes and athletics as well.”
Recently, officials from the school district provided numbers from approximately 60 activities at the high school and Petal Middle School that showed increased participation in extracurriculars leads to better attendance, discipline, academics and pride in school. According to the data, about 56 percent of students in those two schools participate in at least one extra curricular activity; officials are currently working to meet with students who are not involved in any activities at all.
Through those conversations, officials will get a better idea of what can be done to encourage more student participation, whether that be through offering different activities or expanding on the current ones.
“I think it’s important that we don’t just blindly add what we as adults think we need,” Dillon said in a previous story. “We need to listen to our students and listen to those in the schools to determine what are those next clubs or teams that we need to look at offering.
“So that’s not something that’s going to happen overnight; it’s going to be through ongoing conversation with our faculty, our staff and our student body. We need to determine what more we can do to connect our students with life outside of school.”