A six-year, $4.3 million proposal for upgrades to athletics facilities across all four high schools was voted down by the Lauderdale County School District Board of Education in a 3-2 vote Thursday.
The dissenting board members, led by Board President Kelvin Jackson, expressed their concerns over the cost of the project, as well as the current and future possible state of the economy as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. LCSD Athletic Director Tim Moore, who led the efforts to estimate costs and introduced the proposal, said he started making plans to upgrade facilities for girls sports, primarily softball, to avoid any more Title IX lawsuits and expanded the project to include safety measures and match the conditions of certain facilities on other campuses.
The district agreed on improvements to the West Lauderdale softball field in 2018 after parents of two former female student-athletes sued the LCSD, citing Title IX violations.
“We’re trying to keep ourselves in a good position there so we don’t run into any other problems there,” Moore said to the board. “But at the same time, we also understand that some facilities as they are, field houses, restrooms attached to concession stands, still need some upgrades and need to be fixed.”
Jackson agreed on the need for improvements at multiple facilities, but due the cost, said the focus should be reduced.
“I know these things need to be done, but I think paramount is bringing all of our girls facilities, softball facilities, to par,” said Jackson, who added that safety should also be addressed.
The proposal was originally introduced at a special-called board meeting July 7 before its vote was tabled until Thursday’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting due to the absence of two board members. Prior to the vote, Superintendent of Education John-Mark Cain added a caveat to the proposal of a yearly approval of costs and that the district would maintain a 10% fund balance so long as the board continued to support the project.
Jackson, along with Barbara Jones and Terry Harper voted against the plan while Josh Thompson and Dusty Culpepper voted in favor.
Harper also noted the cost of the improvements at West Lauderdale already underway, which the total expenditure was determined to be more than $500,000.
Moore said he understands the apprehension of the board in its vote and said he will consider future proposals.
“We’ll go back to the drawing board and take a look again and prioritize according to what the board wants,” he said. “And once we get those priorities and what their expectation is, then we’ll move forward.”