GCSC to accelerate high school track overhaul

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Students, coaches and residents stand around GCSC Manager Dr. Paige McNulty following the announcement of the overhaul of the track at West Side Leadership Academy being placed on a new timeline putting its completion on schedule for Spring 2021. Once the track is complete it will be available for both student and resident usage.

Moving up project timeline means more opportunities for students, Gary residents

The Gary Community School Corporation (GCSC) recently announced that the overhaul of the track at West Side Leadership Academy will be fast-tracked so students and residents can use the track in Spring 2021. This improvement will help restore glory to Gary’s legendary track program, and afford student athletes the opportunity to compete on their home turf.

GCSC Manager Dr. Paige McNulty announced the accelerated timeline at a press conference at the school, where the track has deteriorated over time. The facilities have reached the point where the West Side Leadership Academy track team is not able to host track meets, thus giving up a crucial competitive advantage and what was once a point of pride.

Dr. McNulty was joined at the track by Athletic Director Robert Lee, student athletes from the Gary schools, community stakeholders as well as current and former track coaches. Several “Gary legends” delivered congratulatory remarks including coaches John Campbell, Earl Smith, Jr. and Gene Johnson. Gary native, state track champion and Olympian Rhonda Anderson also offered words of encouragement to the youth.

“This is a great day for Gary schools – our students, staff, and community as a whole,” said Dr. McNulty. “This renovation will restore West Side’s track to its past glory and allow us to once again host track meets. We also invite residents who enjoy exercising to use the track.”

The track will be rebuilt as part of the overhaul. The current top surface will be replaced with a new asphalt base. Additionally, a rubber and latex running surface will be laid on top.

The track improvements were originally planned as part of Phase 2 of the School Improvement Fund work, but the project was fast-tracked given the impact coronavirus is having on residents’ ability to safely exercise and the desire for West Side Leadership Academy to potentially host track events as soon as this spring.

Coach Gene Johnson offers advice to WSLA senior Athalia Barrett.

“Gary students deserve the same opportunities as students in other communities and modernizing our track moves us closer to accomplishing that goal,” added Dr. McNulty. “With the coronavirus forcing so many people to stay inside, it will be invaluable for our community to have a new and improved track for safe use outside.”

The track improvements come as GCSC is investing in renovations through the School Improvement Fund, which was made possible by the Indiana House Enrolled Act 1065. This bill allows GCSC to suspend certain loan payments and transfer the amount owed to the School Improvement Fund. The suspension of loan payments is a deferral, not a cancellation. Funds from Bill 1065 will be distributed over the next 5 years.

Notably, the School Improvement Fund is different from the operating referendum that the District is pursuing. If passed, the referendum revenue can only be used for staff salaries, programs and activities for students. Comparatively, the School Improvement Fund may only be used for repair, renovation, or other improvements to school buildings and property being used for education purposes as of July 1, 2020, or demolition of school buildings or other structures on school property in existence as of July 1, 2020.

To best understand the goals of all GCSC stakeholders around uses of the School Improvement Fund, GCSC conducted extensive outreach in spring 2020, asking stakeholders to consider a number of detailed repair and renovation projects. Stakeholders included students, parents, teachers, administrators, Advisory Board members, City leaders, Legislative delegates, the Gary faith community, the Urban League of NWI, the Gary Chamber of Commerce, the Gary Housing Authority, the Gary Educational Development Foundation, and the Legacy Foundation. An invitation for input through a web and telephone portal was also made available to members of the public.

Improving the outdoor facilities at the high school was one of the stakeholders’ highest priorities.

The improvements to West Side Leadership Academy are just the latest sign of progress for youth in the Gary schools.

Earlier this month, GCSC announced that its Average Daily Membership increased for the first time in more than 10 years. Additionally, GCSC shared The Path Forward, the District’s bold two-year plan for continuing to improve academics, engagement, fiscal matters, and operations in the district. GCSC also adopted local preference policies for hiring and purchasing.

To start this school year, GCSC distributed a Chromebook with internet access to every student in grades K-12. In addition, from August 2017 to December 2019, the school district’s deficit has fallen from $22 million to $6 million, and the school district’s debt has fallen from $104 million to $79 million.

Learn more about the School Improvement Fund on the GCSC website.

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