Norwin School Board debates gymnasium protective mats at meeting

At the board’s Nov. 14 meeting, they had a lengthy discussion regarding the purchase of mats for the auxiliary gymnasium, an asset used by several Norwin organizations.


Norwin School District

The board’s agenda featured the mats as a “discussion item,” meaning no voting took place.

Last year, the Norwin School Board spent around $90,000 to resurface the main and auxiliary gymnasium floors. Now, the question of how to protect one of those floors has become a heated debate.

Norwin School District YouTube, Mon. 11.14.2022

At their Monday, Nov. 14 meeting, the board discussed the issue of protective mats for the auxiliary gymnasium floor, an expenditure of about $17,000. The current mats, which some argue are insufficient, are used for several purposes, including events and practices hosted by Norwin Winter Guard, blood drives, standardized testing, and other sports practices. 

“If we do not buy these mats, it’s going to cost us way more than 90 thousand,” board vice president Raymond Kocak said. “[We] cannot sand down the floors again without replacing the wood, so this time, we have to make sure those floors are protected.”

These mats are not just for events. They are there so that my kids can practice. Without them, my kids can’t perfect their craft, and they can’t do what they love, and I think that is very hard for you to look at them and say.

— Heather Shrump, Norwin Color Guard Director

The Winter Guard, who hosts three winter events and several practices in the auxiliary gymnasium, certainly needs the protection. Without them, director Heather Shrump argues, they would either have to schedule practice in the main gymnasium or not practice altogether.

“The mats are not just there for events,” Shrump said. “Without them, my kids can’t perfect their craft, and they can’t do what they love, and I think that is very hard for you to look at them and say.”

The baseball and softball teams also use the auxiliary gymnasium on occasion in the winter. New mats would likely protect the floor from scratches or dents that occur during practice.

The conservative members of the board were not enthusiastic about the proposed purchase for a variety of reasons. Alex Detschelt, Robert Wayman and Shawna Ilagan were unhappy that they were not informed of the additional cost when the floors themselves were purchased last year, and they voiced concerns over potentially having to raise taxes on North Huntingdon residents.

“You can’t spend more money than you have, or you’ll end up raising taxes,” Ilagan said. “You’ll all learn that one day.”

Additionally, Wayman raised objections over the type of matting proposed, noting that “high level, commercial grade material” was unnecessary.

“We don’t need high level matting for a blood drive,” Wayman said. “We don’t need it for any of the other activities that we’ve talked about.”

Detschelt and Ilagan were willing to entertain the purchase, but they maintained that the district should not be responsible for the entire cost, proposing fundraisers, increased ticket prices at events, and long-term fee arrangements as potential solutions for funding.

Other members, however, quickly disagreed with these points. They pointed out that ticket prices for Winter Guard events were decided not by the organization, as well as the fact that teams are rarely asked to pay for purchases like these.

We need to figure out where this funding is coming from. I don’t want to take it away from the taxpayers.

— Alex Detschelt

“Basically, I feel that this all is ridiculous,” board member William Essay said. “We should be buying the mats to protect the floors that we’ve already invested in, and we should do it for the benefit of our kids. Period.”’

The mats were only a discussion item at the meeting, so no voting took place, but many community members will be anxiously waiting for a decision to be made.