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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Coaches and players advocate for gym renovations

Andy Zhu
The condition of the school gym as of March 24.

Each day, hundreds of students use the school’s two gyms for athletics, classes, social events and other activities. Though the gyms are among the most widely used facilities on campus, the area has not been significantly renovated in decades, and some coaches and players are saying fixes are long overdue.

In the last 31 years, the main renovation that the district has conducted is a mandated bleacher fix, according to longtime basketball coach Mike Davey. Other upgrades have included the addition of signs on the walls and the occasion resurfacing of the hardwood floors. Originally the bleachers were deemed safety hazards, so the district took control of them out of compliance to fix the issue. Davey is among those advocating for more major renovations — especially the addition of some kind of heater. 

“I think it’s a health and safety issue,” Davey said. “The lack of a heater was the cause of many injuries and compounded illnesses during this year’s basketball season. We had only five healthy players for the entire Los Gatos tournament because everybody was sick and injured from practicing in the cold.”

Sophomore Steven Ning said playing in the current gym is often an unpleasant experience. The pervasive chilly temperatures in the winter affect the injury rate and the duration it takes to properly warm up before practices and games. 

“It’s hard to play in a cold gym mainly because of the injury aspect,” he said. “The cold air often makes me very stiff even after warming up and stretching out.” 

Basketball is not the only group affected. Sophomore Saejel Thomas, a member of the dance team, is disturbed by the conditions that the team must practice in throughout the year. 

“At practice for dance, we are required to immediately remove sweatshirts and sweatpants, even during the winter time, therefore leading to an uncomfortable start to practice and an increased risk for injury. I think that a good heater will help with this problem,” Thomas said.

Davey thinks sports facilities like the SHS gym are long overdue for being fixed and haven’t been a financial priority for the district even as similar work is funded at Los Gatos High. Principal Greg Louie pointed to a lack of funds as a major reason for the lack of gym upgrades and didn’t provide any timeline for when the work could be done. 

With a lack of district spending on the gym area, Davey said parents have contributed most of the money for renovations. 

 “The foyer and gym floor were paid for by a former parent without district funds,” Davey said. “Meanwhile, the district has provided the necessary upgrades for Los Gatos High, including a heating unit that warms the gym in 15 minutes, and this summer, they’re providing a new floor.”

The gym still uses the same heater that was installed when the school was founded in the late 1950s and early 1960s The system uses the boilers to pump heat into the gym.

Simply put, that outdated system doesn’t work anymore, Davey said.

During the basketball season, coaches of different schools jokingly called the Saratoga gym “The Icebox.” Not only is the heater run down, but there are also problems with baskets being crooked and a deteriorating floor in the small gym. 

Calculus AB teacher Lisa Ginestat-Araki, who runs the scoreboard for the basketball home games, has also noticed the cold temperatures in the gym.

“It’s so cold that I have a hard time pushing the buttons during the game,” Ginestat-Araki said. “All the referees, coaches, and students that come into the gym also remark about how cold the gym is.”

Alongside issues with the HVAC system, the windows have also been a contributing factor to the heat problem in the gym. The windows are not able to open, which causes an air circulation issue. This past summer, the initial plan was to replace the windows with new ones, but the district canceled the project and did not provide any follow-up plan, Davey said.

The last renovation of the gym came in 2010 and was made possible by Stratton Sclavos, a parent who donated all the money necessary for the construction of the lobby for the gym, and a better floor. The district did not financially contribute to the project. 

“The gym is Saratoga’s heartbeat for the community,” Davey said. “Our school has our rallies here, daily PE classes, career days, electives night, volleyball team, basketball team and even outside NJB practices. If this happened in their own homes, district personnel would do something. It is a classroom used daily and updating the HVAC is essential for the facility to stay modern.”

Boys’ JV basketball coach Jerry Sheehy also believes that the lockers deserve an upgrade. The showers currently installed are the original ones first implemented in the school, and the last update made to the locker rooms was more than 15 years ago.

The money provided in 2014 by Measure E bond of $99 million split between SHS and LGHS was meant to create a whole new gym to be a big multi-facility building. Louie says that a lot of money went into renovating other parts of the school such as the engineering lab, 900 wing, new roofs, overhangs, etc. So, the district has deprioritized gym renovations as of currently due to cost-restraints.

“Our director of facilities for the district is trying to see if there are things that can be done to get the [HVAC] systems to be more efficient,” Louie said. “It will take some time to execute these projects, but they are in our interests.”

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