For many years, Columbine, Chatfield and Dakota Ridge High Schools shared the same youth development program. During the youth football season, a team was composed of young men from all three high schools.
Since Colorado is a choice-enrollment state for incoming freshmen, Dakota Ridge High School felt this could have an impact on its enrollment. With a little guidance and leadership from high school athletic administrators and coaches, the Dakota Ridge Youth Sports Association was created in 2003.
In addition to the concern about freshmen enrollment, there was another district-wide factor. In the 1990s, middle school athletics were eliminated due to significant budget cuts. As a result, the natural district feeder program no longer existed, and the sports association was now seen as an alternative.
There were a number of significant benefits in creating Dakota Ridge’s own youth program. The coaches for this level were selected and trained by the high school staff, and the young athletes were taught the value and importance of sportsmanship and the various skills which were employed in the high school teams. While in the community, strong cooperation was developed with respect to using school facilities.
At Dakota Ridge High School, as with all high schools in the district, building use is a commodity and managing it can be a challenging task. The school prides itself as being a major hub for the community and, therefore, it was important to allow outside groups the opportunity to utilize the various venues whenever possible.
The important first step is for Dakota Ridge’s athletics and activities teams to turn in their requested building usage for practices and events. In advance of the fall season, for example, this has to be done by June 1 and two months prior to the start of the winter and spring seasons.
The high school sports and activities teams have the top priority for the school’s venues and this priority is stressed to anyone else who wants to rent the facilities. Once the high school needs are entered onto the master schedule, the Dakota Ridge Youth Sports Association turns in its list of dates, times and the respective facilities and completes its contract with the district.
After the school year starts, Dakota Ridge often gets other requests for building use from around the community. All outside applications must be pre-approved by the district in order for the groups to be able to use the facilities.
Once an application is approved, an effort is made to match the requests within the established calendar, which can be a major challenge considering all of the events and activities already scheduled. This request is submitted to the district office, a contract is issued and the appropriate fees are charged according to pre-determined and standard guidelines.
The Jeffco School District has different categories for the fees covering outside organizations. For example, Group 1 includes school district organizations and this would involve no fee. Group 2 covers non-district youth associations, Group 3 comprises adult non-profit clubs and organizations and Group 4 involves commercial groups.
Once all the contracts are completed, Dakota Ridge High School works with the renter to determine its exact operational needs and to help make the event successful. It is important and necessary to check to see if the group utilizing the venues at the school has custodial needs, technology requirements, security and other items for its program or event. Dakota Ridge wants to serve as a great host and provide the community groups with opportunities in the best possible manner.
Even after the master schedule has been completed, there may be occasions in which it is necessary to makes changes. If school is closed or dismissed early for inclement weather, all after-school events and activities are postponed. This means that these contests will have to be rescheduled.
It is important, therefore, that this possibility and provision is clearly explained to all outside groups that are scheduled to use the school’s facilities. As a matter of fact, it is wise to have this provision spelled out in written form and provided to all groups and organizations as part of their contract. You really don’t want any misunderstanding if or when postponements occur and the rescheduling process takes place.
While school personnel, athletes and families are probably familiar with how postponements are announced and communicated, it would also be a good idea to share this information with outside groups and organizations. Your notification system might include posting an announcement on your website, Internet scheduling service, an email blast or a notice on your voicemail. Whatever the method, it is extremely important that everyone knows how to get this vital information in an expedient manner.
Scheduling all school athletic practice sessions and games, and activities is a huge undertaking. This effort is magnified when outside groups and organizations are included. However, the benefits of involving youth groups and civic organizations are essential to the school’s overall role and place in the community.
Matt Heckel, CMAA, is the athletic director and assistant principal at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton, Colorado. He is a member of the awards committees for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and the Colorado Athletic Directors Association (CADA), and he is also a member of the CADA Board of Directors.