Below is a column that ran in the March 31st edition of theWinston-Salem Journal supporting the construction of aRJR multi-sports stadium that would bepaid for by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School System:
R J Reynolds High School – My High School
By C. Edward Pleasants
I graduated from Reynolds High School in 1958 and from Wiley Elementary School in 1953 with many fond memories from both experiences. Reynolds High was built on land acquired by Katherine Smith Reynolds and given to the city for a new high school provided it was named for her late husband. Mrs. Reynolds also gave the school and the community Reynolds Auditorium. The first students enrolled in 1923, one year earlier than planned, because the old Winston High School on Cherry Street had burned. My father, who grew up on Brookstown Avenue, was in that group.
Earlier, in 1919, Mr. Pleasant Henderson Hanes, founder of P H Hanes Knitting Co, gave 47 acres of his West End Dairy cow pasture to Winston-Salem “with the understanding that the property would be developed for public recreational use within two years.” It was named Hanes Park and “would include tennis and basketball courts, football and baseball fields” and later “erect a gymnasium thereon” according to archived documents of the transaction. A subsequent agreement between the city and the School Board in 1999 provided for the school’s use of Hanes Park for football, soccer and band practice; baseball, softball, track, cross country and tennis games and practice as well as PE classes. Though Reynolds has the use of Hanes Park for its athletic programs, it does not control the use of the park. Others who also program activities in the park include the YMCA, Wiley School, city tennis programs and track clubs. In 2012 Winston-Salem State University was given permission by the city and Reynolds to use the Park’s baseball field to begin its baseball program.
Today Reynolds student body totals about 1770 with around 60% minority, 40% white, as per the latest statistics from the School Board, and is the Arts Magnet high school in the county system. It is fed by students from Wiley, Paisley and Hanes-Lowrance middle schools. 740 students participate in the Reynolds athletic program featuring 40+ teams. But unlike any of the other high schools, 16 of those must practice and/or play their games off campus, meaning that they have to travel to Paisley, Mt.Tabor, Bolton, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Crossnore School and Deaton Thompson Stadium 6 miles away. This means that none of the games these teams play is on-campus. It also means that the players have to find their own transportation to the various venues to practice and/or play and many of them have to dress in someone’s cars. It is estimated that the players on these off campus teams will travel 15,000 miles a year just to participate in their sports. What happens to a student that might want to play one of those sports but has no personal transportation? And how about parents who might want to watch their kids play but lack transportation to do so?
I have visited the on-campus athletic facilities of every other high school in the county that fields a full slate of athletic teams as Reynolds does. The typical school will have a lighted stadium with 2-3 thousand seats, a running track circling a playing field usable by the appropriate sports, lighted baseball and softball fields, 4 to 6 tennis courts and auxiliary practice fields for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams—all controlled by each school. The School Board obviously thinks sports are an important feature of the total high school experience and may be, for many students, the reason they stay in school.
Reynolds High School is land-locked with little or no room to expand anything. Its athletic department is doing the best it can to provide the same team participation opportunities other high schools offer. But not having an on-campus, multi-sports stadium so that these off campus teams can have a “home game” and practice and dress on campus is a distinct disadvantage to those students and their parents.
The School Board owns land between Hanes Park and Northwest Boulevard on which such a stadium could be built. The zoning for this stadium has been approved. All that is needed are the funds to provide this much needed facility that every other high school in the county has and controls. Isn’t it finally time to provide for Reynolds High School a stadium to enable its students to participate in a high school athletics program irrespective of their personal transportation options?
One other point to consider (that was researched and verified by RJR Principal Dr. Leslie Alexander):
When one considers the percentage of minority students to the entire RJR student-body (in the spring semester of 2018) when it comes to participating in sports that are practiced and played on-campus: the percentage of minority students participating matched exactly the percentage of students in the entire RJR student-body that are considered minority.
That is obviously what one wants to see at all high schools.
However, when one considers the percentage of minority students participating in sports at Reynolds that are practiced and played off-campus: the percentage of minority students that were participating is only 0.06 percent of the entire RJR student-body! To be specific: out of a student-body of 1,700: less than 10 minority students participated in sports that were practiced and played off-campus!!
This lack of participation in these sports because of transportation issues is obviously a nightmarish outcome, which no one would want to see at any high school!
To learn more about the day when the City determined where Reynolds High School and Reynolds Auditorium would be located, and what all Hanes Park could (and could not) be used for:
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