Santo ISD to consider volleyball; Progress coming is a new four-classroom wing

Jan. 24—SANTO — School trustees appear likely to decide whether to add volleyball to their sports roster next fall, after results of multiple surveys of students and parents prompted the Santo superintendent on Thursday to announce the question will be on an upcoming meeting agenda.

“We’re targeting February for an action item to make that decision,” Superintendent Greg Gilbert said, after Athletic Director Devon Mann reported the results of the surveys.

Gilbert said there would be two questions to answer in order to hire a Coach and start a program at the 2A district. The first was a basic, yes or no to the girls team sport.

“And, if yes, what is our phase-in going to be?” they added.

That is, would the sport start in junior high grades and work its way up year by year, or take some other path towards a varsity squad taking the floor in UIL competitions.

“That makes more sense, to start in the junior high,” Board President Amy Bryan said. “But we’ve got to (have enough interest to) make a team.”

Of 130 female students surveyed from sixth through 12th grades, 74 said they’d sign up for the sport. That included 61 already in some sport as well as 29 band members who said they’d march and spike.

Thirty-nine positive responses came from parents, with three negative responses. Mann said a “no” response from parents did not indicate opposition to a volleyball program, only that their girls would not participate.

He also noted that some of those 39 responses included parents with more than one girl in question.

“It is a family commitment,” Mann said, before Gilbert added the district would also have to go all in.

“You can’t go out and look for a volleyball coach and next year say, ‘Hey. It didn’t work out.’ And they’ve moved a family here,” the superintendent said.

He added that any volleyball coach the district hired would also teach academic courses. Gilbert also said he was answering another common question he’s heard as he assured the board a volleyball program would not reduce finances to other Santo sports.

Just whom a Lady Cats team would compete against was not pondered in Thursday’s discussions. Of the six other schools in Santo’s District 8-2A football division, Chico, Collinsville and Lindsay offer volleyball alongside football. Celeste, Muenster and Era do not, a chart by Mann indicated.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Gilbert walked arriving trustees through a new Classroom wing that’s under construction.

“We’re creating a hall with fourth grade and fifth grade classrooms,” he said, standing in a hall connecting the four classrooms that’s wide enough it will double as “a Collaborative space.”

Built with $1.4 million from the district’s fund balance, the project will be completed without asking additional help from taxpayers.

Gilbert said it is on pace for completion by May. Crews will move desks and other interior components into the wing, on the elementary’s east end, during the summer.

“And we’ll be here next year,” they said.

During Thursday’s meeting, architect Mark Canterbury updated the board on blending colors of the bricks to ensure they match the standing building. He also said he is looking at canopy options to recommend.

Gilbert later told the board a state grant is allowing the district to place bullet resistant film over windows in the new extension and other windows in the district. The $200,000 grant was announced by the Texas Education Agency on Jan. 4 and is available to all districts, they said.

Bullet resistant film does not stop a bullet, of course, but it has been shown to prevent impacted glass from spraying spall, tiny glass shards, into a classroom, according to filmsandgraphics.com. It also significantly lengthens the time it takes an intruder to break through a window to gain entry.

Santo also will use some of that money to raise the fence at the elementary field for added security, Gilbert said, and the district is looking at card-readers for exterior doors.

“This grant is in place for two years,” he said. “And I guarantee you it will be extended.”

The need for space in the growing district — nearly 100 new students have arrived in the past three years — is also launching discussions of a bond issue to put to Voters in November.

The student population as of Thursday was 552.

“We’re maxed out of space,” Gilbert said. “And I don’t see us going backwards on kids.”

They said trustees would need to formally call the bond election by mid-August to satisfy election law to hold the vote in November.

Finally, the board will get a look next month at a new band uniform being proposed by director Mark Belding to replace the 10-year-old suits the students now wear.

Belding brought a slide of the green-and-white uniform, with a silver-and-white flap dividing the chest diagonally that the trustees appeared to favor. The dominant colors were the “Santo green” top and jet black pants with no leg stripe.

“I think we need to get the ball rolling,” board member Philip Colvin said, after Belding said the Fred J. Miller uniform company needed the order to be placed by “February at the latest.”

The director also said the uniforms are machine washable, a rarity for band uniforms which traditionally require dry cleaning. They also said the company will “keep our prototype” for when replacement suits are needed.

The uniforms are $60 each including shipping, he said. Gilbert added that some community members have donated to the band and would support using the money for uniforms.

“The (old) uniform is looking outdated,” they said. “It doesn’t have to be this year, but we’re getting pretty close.”

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