After months of consideration, Chesapeake Public Schools decided not to change its facilities use policy, ensuring non-school groups still have access to the buildings.

“It is my hope that after tonight we’ll be able to move forward with a clear understanding of what the policy is and what it isn't,” board chair Angela Swygert said before the vote Monday night. 

Swygert said the feedback she received “overwhelmingly” spoke to the benefits of allowing non-school groups to use the district’s buildings. 

She was one of seven board members who voted to keep the facilities policy as is. Board member Sam Boone voted to change it and member Brittany Walker was not at the meeting.

The school board was considering language that removed mention of groups not affiliated with the school system. It would’ve impacted about 40 groups including Girl Scouts troops, popular wrestling clubs and dance companies. 

It was the latest proposed change following months of controversy over an Afterschool Satan Club meeting at an elementary school last school year.

Before school board members voted to leave the policy as it is, a number of students, coaches and parents explained what’s at stake if non-school clubs lose space.

Jonathan Crouse is an elementary school wrestler in the Great Bridge Wrestling club. His school, Butts Road Intermediate, doesn’t have a team like some middle and high schools do.

He told the school board he wrestled in 18 tournaments last year, and placed in almost all of them.

“This school year it’s my goal to be on the top of the podium for all those tournaments, but I need a wrestling room to do that,” he said.

Aaron Turner, a Great Bridge High School alum and former member of the non-school affiliated Great Bridge Wrestling Club, said the club is why he’s now a member of the only wrestling team at a historically Black college.

“The Great Bridge Youth Wrestling Club is more than a place where athletes train. It's a symbol of hope and perseverance for kids like me who need an outlet. This is where you chase dreams. This is where you chase goals,” he said. 

“If you were to discontinue the use of school facilities, we’ll  be taking away more than just a club. We’ll be taking away hope from kids like me who need the most. It may be insignificant to some, but [for] the kids who need an outlet, it means the world.”

A note of transparency: Chesapeake public schools are a member of HRETA, which holds WHRO’s license.

This story was updated Aug. 16, 2023 to correctly state School Board member Sam Boone voted to change the district's policy.