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School board approves “cooling zones” project

Only three Grady County Board of Education members were able to make a called 7 a.m. meeting Tuesday, but with board member Cuy Harrell III acting as temporary chairman, the board gave unanimous approval to a plan to meet a new state heat policy passed earlier this year.
Board members Scott Higginbotham and Allen Jenkins elected Cuy Harrell III as temporary chairman to preside over the meeting in the absence of Board Chair Teresa Harris, who was out of town, and  Vice-Chair Drew Pyrz, who had a last minute conflict.
Cairo High School head football coach and Director of Football Operations Tom Fallaw met with the school board last week to provide detailed information about the new Georgia High School Association Heat Policy and the steps the school system needed to take to come into compliance.
Georgia leads the nation in heat related deaths of high school and college athletes, with two deaths of Georgia high school players happening last year on the same day in early August.
The Georgia High School Association’s new heat-acclimatization policy, requires all football players to build up tolerance to high temperatures by working out in shorts and helmets for five days before donning full pads. Three-a-day practices are banned, and two-a-day practices cannot take place on consecutive days or exceed five hours in a single day; a three-hour rest period is mandatory between the two sessions, and single practice sessions may last no longer than three hours.
Last week Fallaw told board members, “The new practice times are no problem, we have been doing that for 10 years.”
However, the policy also states that schools must provide a site for rest time, which should be a “cooling zone” away from direct sunlight. In addition, ice towels and spray bottles filled with ice water should be available at the “cooling zone” to aid the cooling process. Cold immersion tubs must be also be available in the “cooling zone” area.
After the last week’s presentation, board members instructed Superintendent Dr. Tommy Pharis, Operations Director Jerry Cox and CHS school officials to put together a plan that would meet the guidelines of the new GHSA policy.
On Tuesday morning, Dr. Pharis, Cox, Dave Mitchell, CHS principal David McCurry, Athletic Director Todd Jones and Fallaw presented a package that includes a 20′ X 70′ shelter with concrete slab for CHS, a 20′ X 31′ shelter with slab for Washington Middle School, seven misting fans to be used at CHS, WMS and Whigham for softball and baseball practices, an ice machine and storage room at CHS, four lightning detectors (2-CHS, 1-WMS, 1-Whigham), and electrical work at CHS for a total of $41,368.28.
Select Metal Builders was the low bidder for the shelter and slab at CHS, and Carolina Carport will install the shelter at WMS with the slab from Select Metal Builders. The City of Cairo and Bannister Electric will handle the electrical work at both sites, with the schools system’s maintenance department constructing the storage room for the ice machine.
The board will purchase the ice machine from ALPS of Cairo.
Pharis said money for the project will not require an increase in the budget. “We could possibly make a budget amendment, but I think it’s possible to just move money from one line item to another, but no additional money will be needed,” said Pharis.
Board members thanked all parties involved for their quick and efficient work and with no other business adjourned the called meeting.  With summer temperatures soaring and practices set to begin, work will begin immediately on the projects at both schools.

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