YMCA to pay for upgrades to DeKalb school's fields

A DeKalb County high school will get improvements to its athletic fields without it costing any tax money.

The school board voted unanimously Monday night to sign a five-year lease between Cross Keys High School and the YMCA.

Under the contract, the YMCA’s Cowart Family/Ashford Dunwoody branch will pay more than $171,000 for improvements to the school’s fields and track in exchange for use of the facilities.

“School activities come first. The Y has to go through the principal for each use,” said Julie Koriakin, the YMCA’s executive director.

The YMCA also will pay for a portion of the school’s water bill, a landscaping crew to provide routine maintenance and off-duty police officers to provide security.

“Right now the fields are underutilized. We want to be able to provide an opportunity to deliver youth soccer in the Buford Highway corridor,” Koriakin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The North Druid Hills Road school currently uses only about 20 of the 40 acres of fields, officials said.

Under the contract, the YMCA will install an irrigation system, put up fences, and grade and sod the fields by Sept. 1. Over the next five years, the YMCA will rubberize the track, repair dugouts, add portable bleachers and build a field house.

Mpaza Kapembwa, who will start his senior year at Cross Keys next month, said he is grateful for the improvements.

“The football and soccer fields have no grass. If there is any kind of rain, we practice in the mud,” said Kapembwa, who plays both sports. “The grass we need on the field is on the track.”

The YMCA will offer sports for children in preschool through high school.

Several students, including Kapembwa, already have volunteered to help coach some of the younger children’s soccer leagues.

The Ashford Dunwoody YMCA has more than 800 children in its program and plans to offer scholarships for soccer and other sports, Koriakin said.

“This is going to be a really great improvement to a place that has long been neglected,” DeKalb school board member Don McChesney said.