FIELDS VS LI­BRAR­I­ANS

Board nixes all weather tracks for now

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By JASON CAMP­BELL

All-weather tracks more than likely aren’t go­ing to be­come the new norm for Man­teca Uni­fied School Dis­trict’s com­pre­hen­sive high schools.

But that doesn’t mean that the run­ning sur­faces won’t see some sort of an up­grade af­ter the school board dis­cusses and adopts a hand­book next month that would spell out how ath­letic fields through­out the dis­trict should be main­tained and re­ha­bil­i­tated over a fiveyear span.

As it cur­rently stands right now, the board will be asked next month to adopt a man­ual that will lay out the dis­trict’s plan for main­tain­ing not just the sta­dium fields at its five high school cam­puses, but every turf sur­face used for out­door sports and

ac­tiv­i­ties.

Part of that hand­book lays out plans for both Sierra High School and We­ston Ranch High School to have their sta­dium sur­faces re­placed with a Ber­muda-hy­brid grass – fo­cus­ing on elim­i­nat­ing the go­pher prob­lem at the South Stock­ton cam­pus while re­mov­ing the crest in the crown at Sierra High School.

The projects will need to be ap­proved by the board be­fore they can for­mally go out to bid, but the cost for each of those projects is be­lieved to be be­tween $80,000 and $120,000, and the dis­trict is cur­rently op­er­at­ing on a timetable to have them ready for use be­fore the start of the 2018/19 school year.

That wasn’t the only op­tion that the board had to con­sider.

In ad­di­tion to the sta­dium field sur­faces at We­ston Ranch and Sierra High Schools – which has al­ready been bud­geted for – the board could have opted to in­stall the all-weather track at We­ston Ranch and fund the resur­fac­ing of Sierra’s ex­ist­ing all-weather track for a cost be­tween $2 mil­lion and $2.5 mil­lion, or go ahead and in­stall the rub­ber­ized run­ning sur­faces at every high school at a cost be­lieved to be around $10 mil­lion.

Based on the timetable of the hand­book, within the next five years all of the high schools will have their ex­ist­ing sta­dium fields re­placed with the Ber­muda-hy­brid sur­face, and if the board chose to do so, could have moved for­ward with the in­fra­struc­ture work for the tracks at the same time.

Board Pres­i­dent Stephen Sch­luer be­lieved that the de­ci­sion on how best to pro­ceed came down to pri­or­i­ties, and whether the board wanted to put ath­let­ics above other items that could be deemed more es­sen­tial to the dis­trict’s mis­sion to ed­u­cate stu­dents.

“It’s been said that if you want to know a board’s pri­or­i­ties, look at their bud­get,” Sch­luer said. “Do we want to spend that money on fields when we still need five li­brar­i­ans?

“We need to set our pri­or­i­ties as a board and de­ter­mine where we need to spend our money. Do we want to spend it on ath­let­ics, or the things that we scaled back on?”

While spend­ing that kind of money for ath­letic up­grades when the board could be con­sid­er­ing bud­get cuts in the com­ing months didn’t seem like a pru­dent fi­nan­cial move to some, Trustee Eric Dun­can noted that what works at one high school doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily work at an­other.

“Yes, I do be­lieve that they are stu­dents be­fore they are ath­letes, but some­times you need to pro­vide ath­let­ics in or­der to bring out the stu­dent in them,” Dun­can said in his push for the all-weather track.

As part of the dis­trict’s push to re­fo­cus on main­tain­ing play­ing sur­faces across the dis­trict, the pro­posed hand­book will also in­clude a move that would fence in every in­di­vid­ual play­ing field within the dis­trict so that they could be seg­mented and closed as needed when re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is re­quired. Do­ing so would also limit out­side ac­cess. The cost of the 3,000 feet of lin­ear fenc­ing needed for the project is ex­pected to cost be­tween $150,000 and $175,000, and the fund­ing for that un­der­tak­ing has al­ready been bud­geted.

Dis­cus­sion about the board go­ing ahead with the resur­fac­ing of the Sierra High School all-weather track – which was in­stalled eight years ago and is near­ing the end of its life – for $160,000 was in­tro­duced, but not dis­cussed fur­ther.

Bul­letin file photo

Run­ners leave their blocks dur­ing an April track meet at East Union High.

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