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Sports fields main issue at Stafford High meeting

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE

Wednesday night’s meeting about Stafford High School became a turf war, albeit a mild one.

About 50 parents, teachers and students showed up at a community information meeting to learn more about the approved rebuilding project.

Most voiced concerns over the construction project’s planned disruption of sporting events.

They wanted to know why the school system wasn’t going to construct an artificial turf field to accommodate most of the teams that will be affected by the construction.

Scott Horan, superintendent of facilities for Stafford County Public Schools, led the meeting and tried to answer questions from the audience.

Stafford High School is 38 years old, and just about everyone involved agrees that the school needs to be rebuilt.

But as the project’s start date draws nearer, people have come forward with concerns, particularly about the athletic fields.

Construction crews will do most of the work from May 2013 through December 2015.

The new school will be built on the current practice fields, and while construction is under way, those fields will be unusable.

This would affect five Stafford High teams: lacrosse, boys soccer, boys and girls tennis and football.

The construction would also impact the baseball and softball teams, because the school division plans to use those fields for some football and soccer practices.

“The baseball program is being gutted for two years,” said Dave Bohmke, whose wife serves on the School Board. The couple’s sons have played baseball for Stafford High School.

Parents of baseball players put more than $20,000 into the upkeep of the fields each year, and they have been upset by plans to let the football team practice on the baseball field.

Horan told parents that there are no easy answers, and that the School Board considered seven options, including one that would have created an artificial turf to lessen the strain on the baseball fields.

Horan said that the turf was abandoned mainly because of cost.

“I know that’s not the answer you want to hear,” he said.

Several parents asked how much the school division could earn by renting out the turf field, which some schools in neighboring counties do.

Horan said that he didn’t know and that the School Board hadn’t requested those figures.

“If you have not done the math, maybe you can’t make an informed decision,” one audience member countered.

After the meeting, some parents said they were unsatisfied with the information presented.

“We’re spending $66 million, and we’re not getting answers,” Logan Lough said.

RC Stephens has two sons at the high school and a middle-schooler who all play football, and he worried that the construction would affect their seasons for the next three years.

He also thinks the school won’t be big enough to handle the county’s growth.

“We’re not getting a damn thing from this project,” Stephens said. “It will be a beautiful school, but it will be overcrowded from the beginning.”

Horan said that the construction project will be full of “challenging moments” but asked the public to focus on the outcome: a 280,000-square-foot school that will include a computer café, an outdoor classroom on the roof and space for more than 40 academic programs.

“We’re going to do our very best to provide you with an awesome, awesome school,” Horan said.

Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973

aumble@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2012/12/05/sports-fields-main-issue-at-stafford-high-meeting/