Below are my comments on a proposed vote setting for a school building project. You can see more about the project by visiting an article archive at our local paper – M-E project vote to be set – or at the school web site.
I have to say that I am extremely disappointed in the Board of Education and the current scope of the building project you are set to vote on a date for a public referendum tonight. I have also found that getting detailed information from the school district has been interesting. I am basing my comments on what was printed in the January 23rd Press and Sun-Bulletin and previously known items. They may not all be correct which should cause some concern among the district.
I do totally support and agree that the classroom needs at MEMS and Maine-Endwell Senior High are of the utmost importance. While our students excel in what they do and have gone on to higher education at prestigious institutions, they have done so being at a distinct disadvantage from their peers at other high school in the Southern Tier, in NYS and in this country.
What I fail to understand is why an artificial turf football field is more important than a new swimming facility and thereby, was put in the proposal with the classrooms. The current field is used only for football games and the track for modified and varsity track meets. The public does use the track for exercise purposes also. If the proposal passes, I have not seen where current usage would change. The current school usage, as I see it which may not be complete, is three football teams in the fall – modified, junior varsity and varsity – and two track and field teams – a modified and a varsity. I know that there is talk that more teams would use the turf field. I want to know that this is the case. I, having been the parent of more than one student-athlete, know that reality is the football program tends to take ownership of this field during the season and other teams do not use it frequently. The modified football team may use it once during a season but other than that, it is used for the home games in an eight or nine game season and that is it. I also know that it has been discouraged that spring teams use the field. I have only, since 1998, seen one lacrosse game on that field in the spring. I am not certain that the change in attitude that is necessary for the costs – not only initial, but maintenance – of a turf field are warranted in Maine-Endwell.
The current high school swimming pool is used for swimming across the district, which is mandated by the physical education curriculum by New York State. Elementary and middle school students are bussed to the pool to take part in the swimming component of physical education. There are swimming lessons offered at the pool in the summer months. These lessons are a community use of the pool. Also, in the past, Union Aquatics has held practices at the pool – another community use. The school district fields four teams that utilize this pool – a modified and a varsity girls’ swimming and diving team and a modified and a varsity boys’ swimming and diving team. These teams practice under extreme circumstances. While other teams are kept off the playing field the football team uses as “home” field, our swimmers, but not our divers, are sharing a “home” pool with the entire district. This is what the case should be with athletic facilities. Our divers never see a “home” pool. They practice at a neighboring school district and, if lucky, get to compete against this school district at their pool so they can dive in their training facility. Another issue with the divers is how they operate at an extreme disadvantage. Each week of competition a different type of dive is the required dive – forward, inward, back, twist – but at Maine-Endwell, our divers go weeks without diving in competition because home meets do not have diving.
Spectator capacity is still another issue that is being unfairly looked at by putting the pool upgrade on a separate proposal or proposition. While I totally agree that the seating at the football field does not meet new building codes and is unsafe for most people, there is adequate seating in the home and visitor bleachers to seat those who come to the games. I have never seen a game where both sets/sides of bleachers were filled to overflowing. On the other hand, the two small portable aluminum bleachers that are in the pool area downstairs do have enough space to seat the families of our team members, let alone the families of opposing team members. I am sure that the Owego meet last Friday had attendance that, if a fire marshall had been in the building and looking, would have been above the number of people that the pool area can safely seat. There does not seem to be any concern for the seating of spectators at the pool area as there has been for the spectators at the football field.
To this end, I respectfully request that the Maine-Endwell Board of Education reexamine the way the upgrades to our facilities are placed before the voters. Equal attention needs to be given to the overall use of the athletic facilities that are included in the proposals. It is not fair to include one athletic facility – the football field – in the main proposal with the classrooms and not put another athletic facility – the pool – in the same setting. I would like to recommend that either both athletic facilities be put in the main proposal or both be put in separate proposals and the voters can vote on three proposals instead of the two currently under consideration.