A new administrative policy not only risks the safety and welfare of students at one of Fayette County’s best schools, but it also threatens to undermine the quality of education offered and to disturb the peace in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Recently, McIntosh High School Principal Lisa Fine decided to kick the marching band off of the baseball field, which has been the band’s practice facility since McIntosh first opened in 1981.
Instead of giving priority to her own McIntosh students, she has allowed the field to be rented to outside organizations as a fund-raiser for the baseball team and to leave the field unused except during baseball season.
Baseball is a spring sport while marching band is a fall sport. The football teams use both the stadium and the practice field. The only remaining field where the marching band can practice is the baseball field, where it has practiced for 30 years. Any minimal damage done from the band using the baseball field during the summer and fall has always been fixed and paid for by the band.
This year, rather than accommodate both sports, Mrs. Fine has decided to boot the band to the parking lot. Her rationale is that three other high school marching bands in the county use their parking lot as their practice facility.
While this is true, the McIntosh lot is significantly more hazardous than the lots at the other schools. The usable space in the parking lot is too small, it is sloped and uneven, has a big storm drain pit, and has many light poles and islands.
Marching utilizes many backward and sideways maneuvers. Colliding with poles and falls due to the uneven surface or tripping in the storm drain or sidewalk island in the lot could lead to serious injury and liability for the school.
In addition, the heat from the asphalt increases the ambient temperature in the lot significantly, putting these students at risk for heat-related illness as well as burns should they fall on the asphalt.
The parking lot is not suited to a marching band practice and seriously jeopardizes the safety of the band students.
There is another crucial difference in the McIntosh parking lot. The other county bands practice in a student parking lot, which empty within minutes of the bell ringing at the end of the school day. Mrs. Fine has put the McIntosh band in the faculty parking lot as the student lot is too steep to be practical.
The unintended consequence of Mrs. Fine’s decision is the reduction of faculty tutoring of students after school at McIntosh. Here’s how.
Marching band practices right after school. In order for the band to practice, the parking lot has to be completely empty. Mrs. Fine has stated that there will be an announcement to tell all teachers to move their cars out of the faculty lot so the band can practice. This means that teachers will have to leave immediately after school to go move their cars. Most will just go home rather than move their car to the student lot and then come back to their rooms. Consequently, there will be much less after school tutoring, which affects not just the band, but every student at McIntosh.
In addition, the faculty lot at McIntosh is situated across from numerous residential neighborhoods and next to an active Catholic church (which also uses the lot as overflow parking). Just imagine loud marching music disrupting funerals, weddings and masses. It is doubtful that those neighbors and the church wish to be subjected to many hours of marching band practice at such close range.
The band parents and students have been uniformly outraged by the wanton disregard of student safety, and have begged Mrs. Fine to do whatever it takes to make sure the band is on a field. A petition with over 1,500 signatures has been presented to Mrs. Fine and the school board requesting the restoration of the band to the baseball field. The school board has taken a hands off posture, leaving the decision up to Mrs. Fine, who remains unmoved.
This controversy is much bigger than just the band. It affects every family that has a student at McIntosh High School as well as families and the church in the surrounding neighborhoods.
If you share my concern, please contact Mrs. Fine’s office and the school board. Ask them to put the band back on the baseball field. It is too important to sacrifice the safety of our current band students, the peace and quiet of the nearby homes and church, and the excellent reputation of McIntosh High School for something so easily remedied.
Peachtree City, Ga.