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Antrim seeks clarity over district’s use of town gym

Town’s Recreation Department wants to limit use of building connected to Antrim Elementary to just school hours

ConVal School Board members got a first look at a draft agreement regarding use of the Antrim Memorial Gymnasium at a Budget and Property Committee meeting on Tuesday. Their initial reaction was that the proposal would be too restrictive.

The document spells out a number of conditions for use of the gym building, which is owned by the town but was leased to the Antrim School District in 1965 . The lease was transferred to the newly created ConVal School District in 1967.

The proposed agreement calls for the school district to submit by Sept. 1 each year a written schedule of district events to the Antrim Recreation Department for review and approval. It states that Antrim Recreation Department events will have priority and that the gym will only be available to the district during normal school hours, defined as 7:20 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. for Great Brook School and 8:40 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for Antrim Elementary School. It would require that all improvements be approved by Antrim’s Parks and Recreation Commission and Select Board.

“This is an agreement written from Antrim’s perspective, not ours,” School Board member David Martz of Temple said during the meeting. “I think the school needs to control the use of the building.”

According to a timeline on the building distributed at the meeting by ConVal Business Administrator Marian Alese, the lease originally ran through 2037, although a subsequent version states 2013 as the end of the lease period. The land on which the gym sits was given to the town of Antrim by Robert Goodell in 1927, with the stipulation that it be for “free public use for recreational and educational purposes.”

While the gym is a town facility, both Antrim Elementary School and Great Brook Middle School have an agreement with the Recreation Department to use the gym for physical education classes and after-school sports activities. The gym building was once free-standing but now is connected to Antrim Elementary School, where the Antrim Recreation Department has an office. The gym has always been available to town residents during non-school hours.

ConVal paid for extensive renovations of the gym in the early 2000s and since that time town and school officials have made a number of attempts to clarify how the gym would be used, but no agreements have been signed.

Budget and Property Committee member Matt Craig of Sharon said the proposed agreement essentially would mean no after-school use of the gym. ConVal’s facilities director, Tim Grossi, said the district has been doing all the maintenance work on the gym, with the exception of a recent refinishing of the gym floor that the Antrim Recreation Department wanted done ahead of schedule. The district also pays for the utilities.

Grossi said the gym is heavily used by the Antrim Recreation Department.

Antrim Recreation Director Celeste Lunetta said there aren’t a lot of problems related to the day-to-day use of the gym, but the proposed agreement is an attempt to clarify the status of the building.

“Our perspective is that it’s our facility,” Lunetta said. “It’s not your property. In Antrim, it’s the town gym.”

Lunetta said she didn’t think the town uses the gym more than the school district does.

Craig suggested that the School Board might want to investigate whether the district should give up use of the Antrim Memorial Gymnasium and have all physical education programs for students at both Antrim Elementary School and Great Brook School in the gym at Great Brook. But first he suggested having the school district’s attorney take a look at the proposed draft agreement, which the committee agreed should be done.

The committee also asked Alese to prepare a map of the Antrim campus, showing the location of the gym building, the two schools and the adjacent playing fields.

“We’ll continue this discussion at our meeting in August,” Craig said.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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