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Renovation of Fields Increase Equitable Access for Student-Athletes and the Community

Asheville City Schools’ student-athletes will soon have two new fields to showcase their Cougar Pride thanks to the district’s collaboration with the City of Asheville Parks and Recreation Department.

    Renovation plans began in early 2017 when ACS’s Assistant Superintendent of Learning Services, Dr. Terrence McAllister, began meeting with the Parks and Recreation Director, Mr. Roderick Simmons, to identify barriers preventing accessibility and equity for all students and community members.  

   Combining Asheville City Schools’ goal of Excellence with Equity and the Parks and Recreation Department’s Equity Matrix, the partnership will increase equitable access to public parks and is a win-win for the community.

    “Building on our community benefit partnership will allow students and the community access to something they haven’t had in the past,” explained Dr. McAllister.  “Additionally, Parks and Recreation will assist Asheville City Schools in facilitating extracurricular programs that will help us close the achievement gap. Our strong partnership will help the whole school, not just athletic participation.”

    The Parks and Recreation Department’s Neighborhood Recreational Service Plan uses the Equity Matrix to help guide annual funding for Community Investment Projects.  It identified Asheville Middle School and Vance Elementary School as two community recreational facilities in need of a boost.

    “We need to address equity gaps for programs and services when investing in the community,” said Mr. Simmons.  “We can achieve this by using an Equity Lens Allocation Analysis to guide budgeting decisions for investments made in facilities, services and programs offered by the Department.”

    The Equity Matrix, which focuses on racial and economic equity, is based on U.S. Census Data and previous investment priorities for replacement, operating, and maintenance of existing neighborhood parks.  

   As a result, Asheville Middle School’s football field will receive artificial turf and new lighting to accommodate additional usage by the Parks and Recreation Department, and the softball field at Vance Elementary, the home of Asheville High School Softball Team, will receive major improvements.

    “Currently, our Asheville Middle School students have to travel to Asheville High School to watch their teams play.  I’m confident having their own field and enjoying their own game will boost student morale and pride for their school,” said Dr. McAllister.  

    Additionally, it will increase opportunities for additional student groups to participate because the field will be right there on Asheville Middle School’s campus.  From having its own drum line and student section to other teams hosting 50-50 raffles like sports fans see at Friday night football games, the possibilities to cultivate Cougar Pride are endless.  

    “It supports our strategic plan and the overarching goal to support the Whole Child as well as focus area number two of Academic Achievement,” said Dr. McAllister.  “I believe it will give middle school teachers increased access to games because they’ll be on campus right after school. Students will see their teachers at the activities and further recognize their teachers support them both during and after the school day, and, in turn, students will be more apt to perform better in the classroom.  It all boils down to creating and supporting a positive school culture.”

    As for Asheville High School’s softball team, funding has been allocated to improving their field at Vance Elementary School.  The funding will be used both for new lighting and for field improvements. The City of Asheville built the softball field at Vance Elementary School in 1997.  The facility has not received any substantial improvements since that time.

    “If we say we value female sports, we need to show that we value their field as well,” said Dr. McAllister.  “They need a field that’s appropriate for them to play on, and I’m excited for the renovations to be completed. Our student-athletes deserve it.”

    Improvements to both fields are set to be complete by the Fall of 2019.

    Funding for the athletic field upgrades comes from the Parks and Recreation Department’s Community Investment Program, which speaks towards the department’s goal to invest capital, rehabilitation, maintenance, and programming over the next decade to meet our City’s recreational needs.  

    Additionally, as part of the partnership, a memorandum of understanding between the district and City of Asheville has been established. It will grant the Parks and Recreation Department access to Asheville City Schools’ fields after ACS student-athletes have finished practicing and vice-versa should the Cougars require additional practice space.

    Overall, the partnership’s goal is to increase achievement for all students by creating a more equitable access to public parks and recreational resources.