Pineville School Board approves new plans for sports complex

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

By Jay Compton


The Pineville Independent Board of Education has approved updated plans for renovating their sports complex.

Last year they explored the possibility of switching to a turf football field that could also be converted for use by the baseball and softball teams, but when the bids for those plans came in over budget the project was scaled back. Architect Ben Boggs of Clotfelter-Samokar shared the new schematic plans at the board’s January meeting.

Superintendent Russell Thompson said the new plans involve shifting the entire playing surface and home bleachers about 12 feet away from the gym and about six feet away from the flood wall. They also include new lighting, new bleachers and a new press box, filling in the old city pool, installing a turf practice area behind the bleachers and adding areas for the track team to practice. Moving the playing surface will create about five extra feet between the sidelines and the bleachers on both sides of the field.

“It will still be a grass field but by shifting it we’ll have a wider sideline area that makes for a safer playing field,” Thompson said. “The big thing is we’ve had some safety concerns with our stadium. One of our top priorities is to provide a safe environment for our fans and our board takes that very seriously.  I appreciate their vision to get us up to date on our facilities.”

The current fieldhouse with a visitors locker room, middle school locker room and public bathrooms will remain with plans to renovate that building next year.

Included in the new plan is the blacktopping of a new parking lot that has been created across from the school’s elementary entrance.

“We’ll also extend the sidewalks in front of the stadium so that we’ll have better access for our fans,” Thompson said. “The new bleachers, new press box and new lighting have all been approved by the board and we’ve put them out for bid. Hopefully we can get those bids back and get this project started in April so the field will be ready by the start of next football season.”

He praised the school board for prioritizing the needs that were of the utmost importance and not wasting money.

“The board had the financial sense to not enter into something that we couldn’t afford to do without getting in a financial bind,” Thompson said. “We’re taking the time to make sure this project can be completed in a successful and timely manner with the least negative impact on our students and our community.”

He added that the district has also completed the purchase of the Presbyterian Church building and hopes to turn it into a primary center. The board will focus on that project once the sports complex has been completed.

In a separate matter, the board received an update from Athletic Director J.D. Strange about their plans for Pineville serving as the host of the 13th Region basketball tournaments this year.

“Coach Strange is guiding those efforts and has people out collecting sponsors for us,” Thompson said.. “We’re trying to put together a hospitality room and figure out the people who will be working on that. He’s had conversations with the Corbin Arena staff and I think we’ve got a good plan in place.

“We don’t know yet which teams will be involved, but Coach Strange has sent out a packet to all of the schools in the region so we can make this tournament as successful as it possibly can be.”

The issue of chronic absenteeism was also discussed during the latest board meeting. Thompson said it was a serious problem for schools all across the state and something southeastern Kentucky is having as difficult a time with as anybody.

“It has a negative effect on a child’s education and being able to reach their full potential. When they are chronically absent they fall behind in Reading and they fall behind in other areas,” he said. “It’s not truancy, chronic absenteeism includes excused and unexcused absences. I know events rise where a student can’t make it to school, whether it’s because of sickness or something else, but the reality of the situation is that those kids that are not able to be here in school are falling behind in their education.”

Pineville’s average attendance dipped to 87.4 percent last year and while it’s up to 89 percent so far this school year, Thompson said that was still lower than it needs to be.

“We used to be up around 95 percent, but ever since COVID this is sort of where it’s been,” he said. “We’ve raised a couple of points but we’re still at 89. We’d like to get back up in the 90s.”

Pineville set a goal of having a 92 percent attendance rate this year and the state of Kentucky recognizes any student below 90 percent as chronically absent.

“We’re averaging that as a school so that’s not good enough,” Thompson said. “We want to do everything we can to keep kids here in school and to provide them with the best education that we possibly can.”

He added the schools need the parents’ support and the community’s support in that endeavor as well as  just recognizing the importance of high attendance.

“Especially when you get up into high school and you’re looking at joining the workforce or going to college — attendance matters,” Thompson said. “We want our kids to understand that and have the best attendance they possibly can.”

A student with 14 absences for the entire year will have a 92 percent attendance rate and any student who misses 17 days or more is considered chronically absent.

At the start of the school year Pineville announced that students will have to meet the 92 percent attendance mark to be eligible for extracurricular activities. The school has also set up various incentives throughout the year to try and bring those numbers up.

“We’ve been tracking students and trying to contact families to see what the school can do to help. That’s the best we can do,’ Thompson said.  “It’s a tough situation. We want our kids to be here and to have that reputation that they’re going to show up so when they hit the workforce they are ready to show up every day.”

January was School Board Appreciation Month and Pineville Mayor Scott Madon opened the meeting by reading a proclamation in honor of that month and recognizing board members James Golden, Chris Arnett, Brittany Lynch, Chassidy Gambrell and Kaki Smith.

“We really appreciated that and we appreciate all of our board members,” Thompson said.. “We’ve had some tough decisions that we had to go through lately. I think they’ve done well to make the best decisions they could to benefit this school district and our students.”