At the Tuesday, May 15 meeting, the ICCSD school board approved $700,000 to install astroturf on a practice field at City High School. According to City High football coach Dan Sabers, the renovations were originally intended for the upper field, but drainage issues required a relocation of the project, which could be completed as early as Oct. 17.
The board elected to fully fund the 205 ft. by 380 ft. field – with all board members but Tuyet Dorau and Patty Fields voting in favor of the motion made by Director Sarah Swisher.
The decision came days after West High held the grand opening to the newly renovated soccer field – a $700,000 project that received no money from the district and was privately fundraised by the Go for the Goal campaign run by West High parents.
Swisher said she made the motion after months of discussion on the issue because she felt that City High students should not continue to be disadvantaged by poor facilities. She also noted that aerial mapping of City and West showed that West High offers more practice field space because of its larger acreage.
“I ask of West students, remember that City had greater needs at this time. … If [West] has this need, tell us. I’m supportive. We need to find a way to do it all,” she said, although she said the board probably did not have the funds to approve a similar project for West in the same year.
Sabers emphasized that City’s new practice field should not be referred to as a soccer field.
“First of all I need to stress the primary purpose of this field is as a practice facility and for the use of PE and Band students. This should not be referred to as a new soccer field. Obviously this practice field will be a big benefit to our soccer players, currently some of our soccer teams have to practice off campus,” he said.
Funding for the field could potentially come from unspent SILO (School Infrastructure Local Option sales tax) funds, which currently amount to $3.1 million. However, Dorau voiced concerns that approval of the project could force superintendent Steve Murley to violate the limitations that require 5-10% of the district’s money to be kept unspent and unallocated or could jeopardize the board’s ability to fund other projects on its agendas down the road.
At an earlier facilities board meeting, Dorau proposed granting City $300,000 of public funding to use as it saw fit – either fundraising the remaining costs or seeking an alternative solution. This compromise was rejected, and Swisher said public funding was necessary because City had already tapped its private funding resources with the Stand Up for City campaign that went towards the alumni press box this spring. But Dorau argued that the community should not be expected to make up the difference for City High’s decision to use the funds for purposes other than fixing up the field.
Dorau said that she was more concerned with equity on a district-wide level than strictly between City and West.
“I’m disappointed that we’re investing this much money in a field when there are kids being taught in closets or in hallways,” she said after the meeting, mentioning severe overcrowding at Penn, as well as Wood, Lemme and Hoover elementary schools.
Fields questioned the environmental impact of the field and the overall lack of long-term planning, calling the move to fund the field “poor planning, poor government, and financially irresponsible.”
The board requested a report on the impact of the project on the district’s budget, which is scheduled to be presented by Murley at the next meeting on June 5.