Robert Badalian once woke up early in the morning on weekdays to make it to the aging Joe Ferreira Fitness Center at the Shoreham-Wading River High School. For close to 20 years, from 6 to 8 a.m. men and woman walked through the door, quickly becoming friends and regulars. Most were older in age and already retired but found a community where they could exercise without judgment.
“I got through cancer thanks to the exercise of the gym.”
— Peggy Loscalzo
More than a year since the fitness center suddenly closed after an engineer’s report showed the floor was not up to code, the fitness center regulars are continuing to shout their support at board meetings for their small group to be able to use a fitness center at their school. Though current plans to move the fitness center into the school building has many of those residents feeling they’re being pushed out, as now the temporary facility is located inside the school in rooms A101 and 102.
“If the fitness center stays where it is or moves to the auxiliary gym, it will remain a single use facility,” Badalian said. “It’s just not logical that you would move a fitness center from an external building, that’s self-contained, and move it into the high school.”
Officials have already floated the idea to move the fitness center into the school building where the current auxiliary gym resides. Though the district had definitive plans to renovate the old fitness center, a proposed plan is to create a wrestling center in that external building where the old gym room sits vacant.
Board Vice President Katie Andersen said much of it has to do with the security issue of having people walk outside the building during school hours to reach the gym. Students also have limited access and could suffer injury outside from adverse weather.
SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole gave a presentation at the Aug. 20 board meeting recommending gym hours be separate from students’ hours, and that if the gym were to be moved into the school it would only be open for outside residents two days a week in the evening hours and Saturday morning. He also offered the idea of a structured community program for fitness education.
Shoreham residents like Jim and Peggy Loscalzo, who had used the old gym for more than a decade before it was shut down, vehemently opposed the idea of limited times to use the gym. They said the only times they could attend gym hours were early in the morning, as later in the day they may be too tired to go to a gym.
“I got through cancer thanks to the exercise of the gym,” Peggy Loscalzo said.
Poole presented there was an average of 30 weekly resident users of the previous gym, and most were regulars. Of those 30 only eight users exceeded three days a week in attendance.
Badalian vehemently disputed those numbers, calling it closer to 70 paid members.
“The staff was never even questioned about this,” he said.
Some residents questioned why the wrestlers should need their own specific space, though those parents with kids in the wrestling program called it a year-round sport, with training taking place throughout the year.
“We students don’t have the money to buy a gym membership.”
— Connor Blenning
Several residents said they have bought gym memberships in the meantime, but they find it hard to schedule their times, so they could be there with the old compatriots of the old gym.
SWR student Connor Blenning, a wrestler, said lacking a fitness center hurt them last wrestling season, and having a specific space for their sport would be invaluable.
“We didn’t have a gym to do strength training,” he said.
He added that he thought that if the gym is easily accessible to students, who might walk by it multiple times a day, they could be influenced to use the fitness center where they may not have previously.
“We students don’t have the money to buy a gym membership,” he said. “School kids could staff it.”
Board President Michael Lewis said they are still working on the proposals and have not made any final decision yet what will become of the old or a new fitness center.