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As part of the Smackover-Norphlet School Board meeting Tuesday, the board reviewed guidelines for public use of school facilities.

According to the guidelines, the facilities are intended to serve the students and community, but the district also wants users to take pride in the facilities by ensuring they are safe, clean and organized environments.

The main point of discussion regarding the guidelines related to non-district employees being able to have a key and access the buildings, said incoming Superintendent Jason Black. These facilities include the gym/indoor facility and the outside fields for football, baseball and softball. The primary concern, which came up at last month’s board meeting, was with the requirement to have a school employee unlock the door and remain with the community member using the facility.

Black said he met with the school principals, athletic director and others in the district and recommended to the board that a question be added to the form asking if the applicant is an Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) certified volunteer coach and whether documented proof has been provided to the district.

To receive certification as a volunteer coach, an applicant is required to have studied the fundamentals of coaching, be certified in CPR and AED, have passed a background check with fingerprinting and have taken courses in heat illness, concussions, sudden cardiac arrest and communicable diseases. It also looks at a certification of completion for the specific sport a person is looking to coach for. These certified volunteer coaches are only allowed to serve as assistant coaches for football, basketball and track, but can be a head coach for any other sport. They’re also required to be at least 22 years old.

Athletic Director Mike Poff said the district would not require the certification of completion in a specific sport. However, showing the rest of the documentation to be AAA certified would instill trust in somebody.

“If we have somebody who will go through that much leg work to become a volunteer coach, if they’d like to have their kids in the gym and they’re doing something for the betterment of the community," then that’s good, Black said.

The board members agreed with his sentiment that being willing to go through that process shows commitment to take care of the facility.

“Even if they go through that, they’re ultimately responsible,” said board member Chris Long.

Even if somebody has the certification, they’ll be expected to go through scheduling with the school district, but Black said there will be a rotation for a key that can be picked up to use the facility without a school staff member present. Black said they’re still working out the details of that rotation.

Those who don’t go through the process will still be able to use the facility, but a staff member will need to be with them while using it.

The board voted to keep the new process as a guideline, rather than making it a full policy, in order to allow the superintendent some leeway when it comes to this detail.

Another part of the discussion, of which action was not taken, was looking into putting cameras up in the gyms and indoor facility as another safety precaution.

“That’s a minor expense for a major payback,” said board member Damon Goodwin. “If something does happen, then we have video evidence. We’re not talking super (good) quality as long as we get something that you can make out a face in.”

Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or mshine@eldoradonews.com. Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.

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