A lack of space for extracurricular activities is prompting school officials at Diller-Odell to consider building a new gym.

The proposed gym would be in addition to the gym at the 7-12 school in Odell, as well as a gym at the elementary school in Diller.

Diller-Odell Superintendent Mike Meyerle said the school has done extensive work to maintain its facilities, but the nearly 60-year-old gym is starting to show its age.

“We modernized it, but there’s only so much you can do to a gym built in 1959 to make it more fan-friendly and more spacious,” he said. “We’re just at the point where the ever-growing number of programs that compete for facilities, whether that be our high school sports teams, junior high sports teams or youth sports teams, as well as play production, speech and music, just don’t have enough space.”

The likely location for the gym, estimated to cost $3.8-$4.3 million, would be in Odell, either north or east of the 7-12 building where there are currently parking lots.

Meyerle said the school can fund the project through its special building fund. It would be paid off in four to seven years through a lease purchase agreement with the fund.

He added that enrollment has dipped slightly since Diller and Odell schools merged in 2000, but has generally held steady at around 20 students per class.

According to information Meyerle provided at a special meeting to discuss the proposed gym, K-12 enrollment at Diller-Odell is 244, and averages 18.8 students per class in grades K-6 and 18.6 students in grades 7-12.

“We’re confident we’re going to stay around 20 kids per class,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young families moving back and doing things like this is truly an investment in your school district. It shows people we’re going to be here for a while. We have no plans to merge or consolidate.”

The plans call for a gym large enough to house two basketball games side by side with a dividing curtain, and if all goes well, the gym could be completed by July 2019.

This would double the number of available courts from two to four, and also relieve safety concerns associated with high school students who have to drive from Odell to Diller for practice after school.

“It’s a safety concern in that, when kids go home, they kind of disperse and go their own way,” Meyerle explained. “If you get a number of kids in cars all going the same place, sometimes problems can happen. They get a little heavy footed and we’ve had a number of incidents with that. Not that it’s a school issue, necessarily, but it’s a safety issue.”

A survey was sent to residents in the district this spring. That survey narrowly favored building a gym with 51.7 percent of the responders supporting the project, though only around 40 percent of the surveys mailed out were returned.

“I think most people understand that we’re to the point where we need to add on for the betterment of our own programs,” Meyerle said of the results. “Our kids shouldn’t be at a disadvantage when they go other gyms. I think our kids deserve as nice of facilities as other places they go, whatever their activity is. I think we need to do this for the good of the school, just to stay competitive facility-wise with other districts.

“That’s more than sports. That’s all the activities and wanting people to want to send their kids here. Those things matter.”

The Diller-Odell School Board will continue discussing the proposed gym at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the school in Diller.

Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.