Parents want auxiliary gym at new Laurel Highlands high school

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Joe Pergar, a teacher and coach in the Laurel Highlands School District, is leading a group of parents who want the district to add the construction of an auxiliary gym to the $40 million building/renovation project at the high school.

Pergar addressed school board members at Monday night's meeting, indicating that two programs, physical education and the Air Force Junior ROTC program, require gymnasium space to achieve course objectives and carry out lessons as they are intended.

“With only one gymnasium on campus, this presents a scheduling conflict on a weekly basis in which each group has to give up time and gym space so the other can operate appropriately,” Pergar said. “Both factions require additional space, such as an auxiliary gymnasium, so that all objectives can be met and optimal learning/activity could occur.”

With childhood obesity rates on the rise and other lifestyle diseases such as heat disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer so prevalent, Pergar said physical education is of the utmost importance to the district's students.

“The 30 minutes of moderate physical activity the students are receiving in physical education class helps to prevent such ailments,” he said.

In addition to the health benefit, Pergar said a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that recess and physical education classes can improve students' concentration, ability to stay on task and classroom behavior while increasing achievement test scores.

Pergar said athletics are an extension of the classroom and similarly to physical education.

“Students who participate in a varsity sport reap many benefits,” he said. “These benefits range from physical to mental and social. Involvement in athletics has the ability to install immeasurable attributes into our student-athletes that they will possess for a lifetime.”

When Laurel Highlands Senior High School was built in 1973, Pergar said the district offered seven varsity sport teams. The district currently offers male and female students 16 PIAA-sanctioned variety sports and cheerleading to compete in throughout the school year.

In order for athletic teams to continue to progress and be competitive against other school districts, Pergar said more gym space is needed.

“Schools like Hempfield, Ringgold and Mt. Pleasant, just to name a few, have the capabilities of practicing all athletic teams simultaneously with much more room and better resources available to them,” he said.

Pergar said he was pleased that the school district decided to build a swimming pool but disappointed that the auxiliary gym was eliminated from the original construction plans.

Craig McKee, the district's supervisor of buildings and grounds, estimated that it will cost about $2 million for the school district to add an auxiliary gym to its current plans.

“If we had $2 million, we would definitely build the auxiliary gym,” said school board President Jim Tobal.

School board member Tom Vernon said the school district might have enough money left over in its contingency plan to help fund the $2 million gym.

“We're staying on budget with the project right now,” McKee said. “We will keep an eye on the costs to see how much money is left over and see if it is a possibility.”

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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