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Coach Fallaw and school board discuss ways to cool off

Grady County School System officials are scrambling, with the start of football practice only weeks away, to develop a plan and budget for “cooling zones” that are being required by the Georgia High School Association.
Cairo High School Head Coach and Football Coordinator Tom Fallaw updated the Grady County Board of Education on the requirements Tuesday night.
“Anyone who has attended any of our practices knows we are never or hardly ever on that practice field more than two hours. Some may complain we don’t practice enough. The rules concerning practice time and water breaks will not affect us. We’re already doing all that and have for 10 years. What will affect us is the requirement for shaded areas and cooling zones. When we are out on that practice field it is direct sun and there is no shade to be found,” the coach said.
The new requirements in addition to shade include iced towels, ice water, tubs filled with ice that players can be dumped into, according to Fallaw.
“At first we considered some quick fixes like putting up tents, but where student safety is concerned and you are responsible for insuring that safety you can have sleepless nights,” Fallaw said.
What school officials have proposed is a permanent structure that is equipped with misting fans and ice to keep children cool.
Although GHSA does not govern middle schools, Fallaw recommended cooling zones for the middle schools as well.
“We want to make sure what we do is right. I’m thinking something permanent and not something we have to redo every year. At the same time you want it to fit in with the other facilities on campus. We don’t want an eyesore stuck down there,” School Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis said.
The superintendent said that protection from lightning was also a concern, particularly at Washington Middle School where the practice field is much farther from shelter than at other school campuses.
Operations Director Jerry Cox has been working with Dr. Pharis, Coach Fallaw and others to develop a game plan for implementation as soon as possible.
“What we are looking at is a 20 ft. x 60 ft. metal structure. I want to bring you back some options along with pricing to base your decision on,” Cox said.
Superintendent Pharis noted “we’re not talking about a Cadillac, but we want it done right. It has to be right. It’s our kids we’re trying to protect.”
Board member Allen Jenkins requested the full board meet again with athletic department personnel before making a final decision.
After much discussion, the board scheduled a called meeting for 7 a.m. Tuesday, July 17 to review options and pricing before making a decision.
In another sports related item on the board agenda Tuesday night was the replacement of the gym floor at Whigham Elementary School.
Operations Director Cox reported to the board that sometime between June 16 and June 17, the 125 gallon water heater in the gym complex ruptured around the pop off valve. Ironically, preventive maintenance had been conducted on the water heater recently and no problems were detected.
The rupture allowed a half-inch waterline to run for hours and water had covered a third of the gym floor before school personnel discovered it.
Everything that could be done to try and save the floor was done, but according to Cox, the insurance company and officials with Paul Davis Restoration agreed the entire floor would have to be replaced.
The operations director said the estimate for the floor replacement is $171,000, which insurance will cover except for the system’s $5,000 deductible.
Board member Cuy Harrell III questioned how much hot water is needed in the Whigham gym. Cox said he was replacing the heater with a 50 gallon unit.
Board member Jenkins asked what could be done to prevent a similar accident in the future and asked if drains could be put in to drain off the water.
“There is a drain in that room, but you had a half-inch water line running and it could not handle it. The circumstances were that it happened during the summer when no one was around. These things are going to happen no matter what we do to try and prevent it,” Cox said.

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