New fields are needed

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:29

    Sparta High School is long overdue in their obligations to upgrade and improve their athletic fields and track. At the last Board of Education meeting on Aug. 29, there was testimony by Athletic Director Patrick Shea and collaboration by Principal Dennis Tobin that the conditions of many of the fields and the track were unsafe and in desperate need of repair or replacement. The time is now to make the necessary corrections and changes. There is available money for correcting damage to fields in the school construction budget and this would not increase taxes. This money cannot be returned to the taxpayers and cannot be used to fund school operations. It makes complete sense to use this money to repair and upgrade the athletic fields considering that the Board of Education is on official notice per the August meeting that the fields are presently unsafe for athletes. It is now not only a health and safety issue, it is a legal issue. The track is in total disrepair. It has not been in use for any home track events. The track team must travel to every event, an additional cost. Even training on the track is dangerous for athletes. This affects not only the participants of track and cross country, it affects the entire student body since it is used for all physical education classes. The surface of the football field is unsafe. In most areas, there is not even grass to cushion falls. Rocks are visible in the dirt. Falling on this surface will lead to a higher incident of injury such as concussions and broken bones. The spectator stands are old and not up to present code. The Board must consider the ramifications of potential lawsuits from not just the 900 student athletes of the high school but from all the athletes from other schools who play on this field. The baseball fields are an embarrassment to the community. Even the Little League teams have better field conditions. This is not just a school issue. This is a community issue. In a time when real estate is in a slump and people are abandoning their homes to foreclosure, we need the added incentive of modern athletic facilities at the high school to compete with other communities. Mr. Shea gave testimony to the fact that compared to other schools in our athletic conference, we fall far short. Many opponents of spending money for athletic purposes counter that the focus should only be on academics. We challenge them to consider that those who participate in athletics, band, and other extracurricular activities who use these facilities are better engaged in their school. Participation in school activities is essential to obtaining admittance in competitive universities. It goes hand in hand with academic success. If we do not use this construction money to correct these issues now, we will be forced to make this an election issue which would possibly mean increased taxes. We cannot afford not to address this, given the dangers. Yes, it is expensive, but it is an investment whose time has come and which will pay off with less maintenance costs in the future when there are artificial turf surface(s). The rescheduled Sparta Board of Education meeting is tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Mohawk Avenue School. Please consider attending to lend your support to this issue. Peggy and Tim Fischer Sparta