Leah Watkins presides over board meeting

Henry County Director of Schools Leah Watkins speaks before the matter of a natural versus synthetic field is put to a vote at the board’s regular meeting Thursday at Henry School.

The Henry County Board of Education unanimously approved the use of synthetic turf to replace the natural grass surface at the Bill Hudson Football Field at Henry County High School during its Thursday meeting at Henry School.

Board chairman Jill Coker accepted motions for either synthetic or natural turf for the replacement.

Board member Rod Frey made a motion in favor of the artificial, and Tom Beasley seconded the motion. All members voted in favor of the synthetic turf in a voice vote.

The vote also included a replacement for the track that runs around the field. The replacement will not be large enough to host track and field meets, but it will replace what is currently there and should be an improvement for HCHS track athletes to practice on.

Tim Cowan of Athletic Surfaces Plus gave a presentation, including photos of various sports fields that have the synthetic turf and offered a rendering of what the HCHS field may look like.

The board also voted unanimously to fund the turf project using the capital funds account.

Although no bids have been sought yet — meaning no firm price is set — the board is planning to spend up to $875,000. The high school’s football booster club, the Quarterback Club, will put $118,000 it has raised in donations toward the field.

The remaining $757,000 will be funded out of the reserve capital line item of the schools budget.

Director of Schools Leah Watkins said during a work session on Tuesday that, if approved, the turf project might be able to be started right after graduation in the spring and be completed by midsummer.

The issue will now go to the Henry County Commission, which will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

In other meeting business:

• Local Boy Scout Preston Pooler gave a proposal to the board regarding his Eagle Scout project.

His planned project is to build a greenhouse at Lakewood School to help further the school’s growing agriculture program.

The board accepted the proposal unanimously.

The greenhouse is expected to be completed at the end of April or in early May.

Pooler said it will include a driveway, a heater and running water.

“The greenhouse would be a very good addition to our ag program,” said Mary Kate Paschall, the art and agriculture teacher at Lakewood.

• Spelling bee winners were recognized at the meeting.

These students have been named school champions for the bee, and took an online test to qualify for the state competition this March at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Results for that test are not currently available.

School winners include fourth-grader Ryne Lindsey at Lakewood, eighth-grader Conner Clark at Lakewood, eighth-grader Drake Goldman at Harrelson School and eighth-grader Logan Osborne at Henry.

• Henry Principal David Kibbler gave a presentation on the school’s current activities and achievements.

Assistant Principal Robin House said the school is looking forward to its upcoming spring parent-teacher conference.

She said in the past, they have had trouble with attendance for conferences during the spring semester.

They’ve addressed this problem by including new incentives for people to come.

She said last year, they had a photographer take free 8-by-10-inch photos of families, local vendors brought free samples and the Henry Thrift Store did clothing and toy giveaways.

House said 21 agencies have confirmed attendance  for this year’s conference.

Agriculture teachers Flynn Watson and James Bates spoke on the growing agriculture program at Henry. Eight tool-equipped work benches are now in use in the classroom thanks to a grant from Plus Endowment.

Bates said he looks forward to being able to teach basic home and engine repair to agriculture students.

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