March 19, 2007
High school dreams of field; Emory steps up to plate
by matt bolch
Green space is more precious than a parking space on the Emory campus, which makes an agreement with Druid Hills High to use its athletic fields a rare treasure.
Emory’s Division of Campus Services is stepping up to the plate to invest resources and improve the high school fields to Emory practice field standards. In exchange for the upgrade and ongoing maintenance of the high school football and softball fields, the high school is allowing the University to use the fields on weekends and during the summer for camps. Emory approached the high school in early fall, receiving initial support from Principal Everett Patrick before recently receiving final approval from the central office at the DeKalb County Board of Education.
Jimmy Powell, Emory’s director of exterior services and engineering services, said the fields will be ready later this summer. Questions remain about how much renovation the fields will require before routine maintenance begins, which could affect when the fields will be ready for intramural and summer camp play. Aside from the time required for any necessary renovation, the addition of these fields to the Emory maintenance schedule will require only a slight increase in staff, less than a full-time position, Powell said.
“When Druid Hills needs the fields is the opposite time than when Emory needs the fields,” said Powell. “We have limited field space for recreation and little hope for an increase on the horizon, so a partnership helps us and gives the school fields that are up to a higher collegiate standard.”
Patrick said he welcomes the heightened attention the fields will receive as a result from the agreement with Emory. “The quality of our fields is only fair because there’s not a lot of attention paid to them,” said Patrick, who notes that only one maintenance person is responsible for the upkeep of the school and grounds.
Initially, the University was interested only in the football field but was amiable to Patrick’s suggestion that Emory take over the softball field, where the county drags the infield about once a year. Other needed maintenance mainly has been performed by parents, Patrick said.
The addition of more green space gives Emory more scheduling options for sports camps and special events during the summer, said Betsy Stephenson, director of athletics and recreation. “It’s nice to have such an agreement formalized.”
Few people on campus and in the Druid Hills community may remember that the school was founded in the Fishburne Building on the Emory campus in 1919 as a school for faculty children before moving to its familiar location on Haygood Drive in 1928. Those ties between the University and the high school, forged nearly nine decades ago, remain strong. Emory serves as a partner in education for Druid Hills High, and the two entities are part of the Druid Hills Community Consortium with Fernbank Elementary School, Fernbank Science Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston to share people and resources to benefit learners from pre-K students through adults.
“It’s a great opportunity to partner with the high school in a way that’s mutually beneficial,” said Betty Willis, senior associate vice president for governmental and community affairs at Emory. “Any time we can find those opportunities, we should take advantage of them.”
The athletic fields at Druid Hills High have a special importance to Powell, who graduated from the school in 1974. “Some of my blood, sweat and tears are on those fields,” said Powell, who practiced football and baseball there.
Current students especially will benefit from the upgraded fields, which are in nearly constant use during the school years by varsity and junior varsity football, soccer, baseball, softball, track and general physical education courses, said Patrick, who’s been at the school for 11 years, including seven as a teacher and two as assistant principal before assuming the top spot two years ago.
“Win-win is the best way to describe [the partnership],” Patrick said. “My football coach is ecstatic about it.”