PLHS muscles in on grant for weight room
by SCOTT HOPKINS
Jan 13, 2010 | 2626 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students at Point Loma High School (PLHS) have, for decades, built body strength by “pumping iron” in the school weight room. Recently, though, that activity has become more like “pumping rust.”

In a community that prides itself on excellent school programs and facilities for its children, the school’s demolished weight facilities and rusting outdoor weight equipment appear to be a glaring exception.

But hope is being rejuvenated. Those facilities will now be replaced, in part, with the help of a $90,000 grant from the Jimmy Johnson Foundation and commitment of some dedicated Point Loma High parents and students.

Once housed in two portable classrooms just west of the campus stadium, the weight room was a regular component of every PLHS student’s physical education activity. Classes rotated through the two structures, learning proper techniques while increasing muscle tone in their growing bodies.

For the school’s athletes, the facility became a second home, a place to gather and push themselves beyond previous limits. Often bathed in perspiration and straining to summon every ounce of their strength, these teens prepared themselves to compete for team positions and battle their opponents on turf, hardwood, in the ocean or a pool.

Problems began when the two portable classrooms were condemned by inspectors and demolition was ordered. PLHS staff members saw only one place available to house the shiny chrome machines and iron plates, but they knew it was a terrible alternative.

The weight equipment has been moved to a chain-link-fenced batting cage near the site of the condemned portables.

And so, the expensive equipment sits, being slowly exposed to the sun’s destructive rays, the night’s dew, salty air and occasional rains. Rust covers much of the metal and padded seats have now been completely destroyed by the elements.

When San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) officials polled each of its school sites to find what was needed at individual campuses, the weight room dilemma at Point Loma High was brought up. But so were other pressing issues at PLHS, such as aging plumbing and electrical systems, the need for increased technology in classrooms and other issues.

SDUSD has allotted funding from the $2.1 billion voter-approved Proposition S, in part, to replace the PLHS weight room —- but not for another five years.

PLHS parent Lisa Tumbiolo decided to take matters into her own hands.

Tumbiolo learned of grant money made available to local schools from wildly popular NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson, who attended schools in El Cajon. He founded the Jimmy Johnson Foundation in 2006, partnering with Lowe’s Toolbox for Education to help cash-strapped schools.

Learning of the deteriorating weight room, Tumbiolo worked with fellow parent Ron Gemmill, who works in construction, to assess the situation. A cost of about $185,000 was estimated to put the weights back into a permanent, secure facility for student use.

Supporting the grant prepared by Tumbiolo and Gemmill, PLHS senior class president Josh Morse created a video documenting the deterioration of the machinery and loss of student use.

When the winning grants were announced by Johnson in a ceremony recently at El Cajon’s Crest Elementary School, the PLHS project had clearly grabbed his attention. Johnson, who personally reviews all requests, award-ed PLHS $90,000 toward the project cost.

Johnson’s racing cars carry the logo of Lowe’s home improvement stores, and during a “Homecoming Rally” held at the company’s Santee location, the PLHS grant was the only one featured before local news media.

It is anticipated that Lowe’s will take an active role in the design and construction phases of the project.

“This is yet another example of the outstanding parents we have at PLHS,” said athletic director John Murphy. “Both Lisa Tumbiolo and Ron Gemmill deserve recognition for their excellent work on this much-needed project.” 

Next up for PLHS staff and administrators is asking that funds that have been allocated for the weight room five years in the future be released now, allowing the project to move forward and minimizing further rust damage in the near term.

“We have scheduled meetings with the Prop. S people,” said PLHS Principal Bobbie Samilson. “We’re very optimistic that the needed funding can be obtained.”

Murphy expressed hope that construction of the weight room can begin before the end of this school year in June.

This year’s Johnson Foundation grants totaled $500,000 to 11 local schools.
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