Closure of Fitness Facilities Left in Disarray Interferes With Students’ Training

Signs were posted on the fitness center doors informing students that the room was closed. Photo by Shai Dweck.

A group of men’s basketball players arrived at the fitness center on Sept. 21 for their daily workout in preparation for the winter season, senior Dylan Bronner said, only to find the door locked. Signs posted on the doors announced that students could not use the fitness center outside of PE classes.

Both the fitness center and the wrestling room were closed from Tuesday, Sept. 21, to Friday, Sept. 24, because the spaces had twice been left in a mess, with weights and other equipment strewn everywhere.

The printed signage included photos of equipment sprawled on the ground in the two fitness rooms. In one image, barbell weightlifting plates lay haphazardly piled off their rack. “Last week this is what was left on the floor one day,” the sign read, referring to the photos below. “After picking up 2,600 lbs of weights off the floor and reorganizing it, it was left a mess again this morning.”

It wasn’t clear who had decided to close the two rooms, and no member of the PE or athletics staffs contacted by the Bit claimed responsibility.

When asked in an interview if she knew what contributed to the decision to put the rooms off limits, Assistant Athletic Director Pam Stanfield said, “Not at all. I’m mostly in the athletics department, so I don’t know.” 

When asked for an interview, Athletic Director David Gillespie directed the Bit to the PE department. Jodi Jackson, the new chair of the PE department, declined a request for an interview and suggested the Bit contact Gillespie for information. PE teacher Taylor Brown said he was unavailable for an interview prior to the publication of this article.

PE teacher Kevin Jackson told the Bit that he did not know in advance about the closure of the two rooms. “I wasn’t here when they made the decision,” he said. “I was notified when I got to work.” 

Both Stanfield and Jackson said they also did not know who was responsible for leaving the messes in the fitness center and the wrestling room.

The loss of the two rooms affected a fall team as well. The cross country team was unable to use the wrestling room, where it normally meets after school for practice.

In addition, injured runners who usually use fitness center equipment to cross-train were unable to do so at school. “If they had the opportunity to ride a bike or do an exercise machine at their house, they did,” head coach Anthony Belber said. “But for students who didn’t have access to those things, they couldn’t exercise on those days.”

Belber later clarified in an email that members of the cross country team were allowed to use cardio equipment, under supervision, on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 23 and 24.

Senior Ike Cymerman, who discovered that the fitness center was locked when he went to work out on Sept. 21, called the closure an “inconvenience.”

While both Cymerman and Bronner were affected by the decision to close the rooms, they understood why it had happened. “If I had to run a weight room I’d want it to be clean,” Bronner said. “And it’s important to hold people accountable.”

Although Cymerman agreed that students should use the fitness rooms and their equipment more carefully, he wished the consequences hadn’t fallen on the shoulders of all students. “It’s very disrespectful the way people threw the weights around, but at the same time it wasn’t everyone’s fault.”

Belber, who has coached at GDS for over two decades, said he has experienced similar situations in the past. “It’s happened many times over the years that the athletic department or the PE department has decided to close a space when it’s consistently not been cleaned up well. I’m kind of used to it,” he said. 

“If it was a decision I had to make,” Belber added, “I don’t know if that’s the path I would have chosen.”

Kevin Jackson also wasn’t sure that closing the fitness center and wrestling room for a week was the right choice. “I don’t know if that was the best way to go about holding the school accountable,” Jackson said. “It definitely gets a message across that you need to put your weights away, but I’m not sure it’s the most efficient way.”