Harts softball team outraged as plans move forward to sell school

[image] Photo by Andrea Lannom, the State Journal

The Harts middle school level softball team could be only days away from losing their practice facility as the local school board puts the property up for auction.

The school where they currently practice was closed because of consolidation. But the Lincoln County Board of Education kept the utilities on in the school gym so the softball team and other teams could use it if the weather was too bad outside to practice.

Lincoln County Superintendent Patricia Lucas said the old Harts Middle School will be sold at auction April 15. Three other surplus buildings will also be sold.

"It makes us feel like nobody cares for us kids," said team pitcher Kenzie McCann. "They are trying to close our school down and that means we have no indoor facility and if they close it down we won't have any power to play any of our games here at this school."

Lucas said the county has limited funding because they do not have a great tax base in the area. She said the board has to make wise decisions about how they spend their money and cannot maintain a building that is no longer occupied by students. She said the Harts Middle School building was the only unoccupied building at which the school board is still paying utilities.

Head Coach Michael Browning said he and the team arrived for practice one day recently to find that the heat had been shut off inside the gym. The team has a batting cage set up inside. "The snow and the wind were real cold and we came in the gym and it was just as cold in there as it was outside where they had turned the heat off," Browning said.

The team grabbed all of their equipment that they had been storing inside and moved it to an outside room that was heated. They were concerned that the equipment would be damaged because of the cold temperatures inside the school. Now the coach says even the outside room may be off limits. "They are trying to take the room away and turn it into a locker room," Browning said.

Lucas said the problems with the heat were a misunderstanding. She said the heat has since been restored to the gym.

"Just keep it open for us kids to have a place to practice when it is raining and keep our memories in this school," said team catcher Kara Browning.

Browning said the team had their first practice of the year February 28 when the weather conditions were not ideal. He says this season they have practiced indoors at least four days each week.

Lucas said the team has an alternate indoor location where they can practice. She said there is space available at the new Harts Pre K-8 school. But team members said they prefer to practice at the Harts Middle School location.

The team is planning to attend the school board meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. The team went to a Lincoln County Commission meeting last week about this issue. Commission President Charles Vance said discussion about the building is ongoing and he plans to talk to the school board about the team's concerns.

In an unrelated move, the Lincoln County Commission donated $1,000 dollars to both the softball team and the baseball team.

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