When Columbia Middle School reopens this fall on its new campus on William Few Parkway, it will come complete with a new gymnasium.
But with a growing number of basketball and volleyball teams across the county competing for scarce space, Billy Jackson doesn’t want to lose access to the closing school’s gym.
Jackson pleaded with Columbia County commissioners during a recent committee meeting to strike a deal with the school system to prevent the gym from being turned into warehouse space.
As the school is vacated, the schools’ transportation and nutrition services are expected to move to the campus, which is next door to their current offices. The gym then would be converted for storage, moving the school system out of the county’s Evans warehouse.
School officials say they’d be willing to let county teams continue to use the gym, but in return would need storage space to replace it. A comparable warehouse would cost $350,000 to $500,000, Jackson said – far cheaper than the estimated $5 million cost to build a gym as large as Columbia Middle’s.
County Administrator Scott Johnson said officials have discussed continued use of the gym with school system officials for more than a year.
“I think there’s a lot of merit to trying to save the gym,” Johnson said. “Trying to turn it into a warehouse is a waste.”
Unfortunately, he said, transferring the gym to the county’s hands is “problematic,” and unrealistic within the October deadline from the school system.
“It’s complicated,” said District 3 County Commissioner Charles Allen. “But it’s certainly worth one more relook.”