FIELDS VS LIBRARIANS
Board nixes all weather tracks for now
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
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.
Runners leave their blocks during an April track meet at East Union High.