Groups question renting school facilities

Members of the public who use school facilities for sports and other events have raised questions about the cost of renting these facilities which has prompted school administrators to reevaluate the hourly charges.

Community groups can rent school facilities, fields and gymnasiums for events such as basketball and pickleball from the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) when they are not being used for school activities. After an October 8 discussion at the Warren Select Board meeting where Warren Elementary School Principal Tom Drake mentioned the fee for pickleball groups using the school, the administrative team revisited the fee structure.

Fees have varied each year and had been different for each school before the Act 46 district merger. In fiscal year 2019, the total building use fees collected doubled from FY 2018 to FY2019. In FY2018, the total was $14,857.61 collectively from all sports teams. The following year, the total collected was $27,048.60. This year, FY 2020, to date the building use fees that have been collected are $2,677. The administrative team noted via email correspondence that the fee and charges change yearly.

In an email response HUUSD Superintendent Brigid Nease wrote, “Recently, we have been receiving complaints from community members who in the past were using the schools without any fee. This year we began requiring all schools to follow these procedures. After we received the requests from the pickleball group for no charge, we discussed the matter and made an adjustment for the smaller schools with half gyms to charge hourly at the classroom rate, which is $7.50/hour. This would mean that a pickleball game for two hours would be charged $15.”



In the list of procedures on the Harwood website, there are five categories for using a school space. Category 1a is school activities and school-related activities such as co- and extracurricular activities and school-sponsored activities. Category 1b is use by school established groups or organizations that supports HUUSD such as booster clubs. Category 2 includes outside groups providing education benefits as a nonprofit or district employees providing services.

Category 3 includes other public entities such as a public meeting on a legislative or municipal issue, agencies or government entities. Category 4 is for private for-profit groups for courses, for education programs specifically for residents, teachers or staff of the HUUSD. Category 5 is for other occasional uses permitted by the principal and or the athletics director.

On the board’s website there is a tab with 12 conditions of use that outside groups must adhere to in order to rent a space for events or sports.

Among the 12, there are conditions of use that are applied by the principal, athletic/activities director or designee in deciding what uses will be allowed, and then what terms and conditions will be applied to each specific use in granting permission. From the definitions, “In the event of a conflict between potential users or uses, or if an issue arises concerning terms and conditions of use, the principal, athletic/activities director or designee shall have the authority to decide the conflict.”

All parties using a school facility must comply with school policies such as adhere to state and federal laws and no tobacco, drugs or alcohol consumption, gambling or weapons on the property.

Another policy pertains to the maintenance of a rented facility; this pertains to leaving the facility in the same shape they found it in and cleaning up all litter or fixing any damage. The policy adds that additional fees would be issued for any litter or damage to the property.

The procedures also go over insurance citing that the principal, athletic/activities director or designee shall include as an express condition of use, for any user entity not covered under Harwood Unified Union School District’s insurance policy. The procedure adds that “the user entity submit proof of $1 million worth of insurance as specified for the particular use, prior to commencement of the use, specifically listing the HUUSD as additionally insured. The standard insurance requirement is $1 million commercial general liability.”

The tax monies appropriated by the school district are intended to be used for the education of students. The cost of fees is stated not to be less than the costs to use utilities and to pay for custodial, maintenance and security services. As a clause, the principal of a building may waive fees with the superintendent’s approval.