Our View: No foul moving noon ball game
This small-town kerfuffle over moving the noon basketball game from Eagle Valley Middle School down the road to the Gypsum Recreation Center isn’t about killing tradition or viewing community members as suspects or security risks.
It’s about the safety of the hundreds of students who attend the school and teachers and staff.
That shouldn’t be so hard to understand, given what we all know about school safety in the years since 1995. That’s the year a 50-year agreement was signed by the school district, the town of Eagle and the local recreation district after the town contributed $431,040 toward building a double-size gym at Eagle Valley Middle School.
Today, it’s hard to fathom why the town, rec district and school district would sign off on a 50-year pact. But the deal reflected the community culture at the time and limited funding across the board was part of that culture. The town had to dig deep to come up with the money and it took five years to pay off that amount. Because it was such a huge expenditure at the time, Eagle wanted to make sure the deal lasted. Hence, the 50-year term.
And since we’re talking about community culture, it goes without saying that the world — especially here in this valley — was a much different place in 1995.
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When that agreement was signed, there hadn’t yet been Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or Stoneman Douglas — names of schools that need no qualifiers. Every American is fully aware of the horrors that took place in each school after a gunman or gunmen were able to gain access to children and teachers.
It’s “access” that is the key word here.
In the school district’s letter to the Town Council, Superintendent Phil Qualman wrote that district officials aren’t concerned about the behavior of current players, “we’re concerned about the program being easy to exploit by a bad actor.”
That argument should carry the day, given what we know to be true about bad actors gaining access to schools in this country — especially in this state.
According to EveryTown, which tracks gun violence in the United States, there have been at least 583 incidents of gunfire on school grounds since 2013, resulting in 214 deaths 420 injuries. That’s just in the last seven years.
The school district’s chief operations officer said school officials began to look at relocating the lunchtime game when a student wandered into the locker room when an adult was in there.
“The safety of the students is the primary concern. No one disputes that,” Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed said at the May 26 Town Council meeting.
So, if that isn’t in dispute, why is this still an issue? Why are the mayor and other members of the council, some of whom played in the game, siding with the players and not the kids?
There’s no dispute among Mountain Recreation officials and school district officials: they’re in unanimous agreement that the game should be moved and have worked to reach a deal with the town to do just that.
The game already moved once before the noon ballers found a home at the middle school. The tradition is the game — not the gym.
And that tradition isn’t in any danger. The noon ballers aren’t being cast out into the cold with no place to play.
Yes, some of the game’s players have kids in local schools and want the game to stay in Eagle. Yes, by all accounts, the game has fostered positive community connections, and some prominent community leaders have played in the game, including the former publisher of this paper.
But the math here just doesn’t add up, and the Town Council needs to recognize that. Moving 20 or so odd players down the road to the Gypsum Recreation Center keeps the game intact while prioritizing the safety of our local kids.
That’s why all three sides need to hammer out a deal that’s fair to all parties, and then move on. The game can move back to Eagle when Mountain Recreation expands the Eagle ice rink and pool complex, with a double gym expected to come online in 30-36 months.
As one parent wrote, among the stack of letters entered into public record at the last Town Council meeting, “As a teacher and parent, I can not believe this is even a question. Why are these 20 players allowed access to a school that no one else is. Get your priorities straight please.”
Yes, please do.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Editor Nate Peterson, Publisher Mark Wurzer, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd, Business Editor Scott Miller, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.
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