Says civic participation vital to developing solutions
On February 3, 2012, Haldane Superintendent Dr. Mark Villanti issued a letter addresses to “Families, Students, Staff and Community” that was both emailed and posted on the district’s website. The letter refers to the Town-wide Athletic Fields Study, which was unveiled at a public meeting on January 30.
Some of you may be wondering, “Is this really the time to be thinking of spending money to rehab our fields in the district and in the Town of Philipstown?” Certainly the tax cap and the realities of the economy make any new spending a challenge. When I accepted the position of superintendent of Haldane, I realized that the facilities in the district needed work. I was aware that much of the infrastructure including roofs, heating and electrical systems, and the school athletic facilities needed work. Priorities and an order of completion had to be established - roofs first; heating and energy systems second and thirdly the outdoor athletic facilities.
We are now at the juncture in the road where the Board of Education is prepared to tackle the issue of inadequate outdoor facilities. This is not the first time that a track and a regulation field have been discussed. The District received a positive vote from the public to build this facility on land we own near the District Offices (also known as the James Pond area). A lengthy controversy and law suit resulted in a stalemate of the approved plans.
Back to the original question of why move forward now? Let me cite a few reasons why the District believes that our long standing problem of below standard athletic facilities needs to be addressed.
Physical education needs. It is a misnomer to believe that the desire to move ahead is simply because of inter-scholastic athletics. Our physical education facilities are very limited outdoors. The current field space available for physical education classes is often wet, muddy and uneven. I know of no other district that has such limited outdoor space for physical education. It is important that students are outside. Unless we improve our facilities that will not happen.
The footprint and current condition of the field.
The “football” field is undersized for soccer and has very poor drainage. The consultant studying the fields indicates that it is built on bedrock with possibly three inches of top soil at best. We need a game field that can properly support soccer, football and lacrosse.
We have no track.
This is tough problem. We have cross country, winter and spring track and we have no track area. I know that many people are disappointed by our lack of a track. Worse yet our school footprint cannot accommodate a full sized track because of the length needed. We are currently discussing a “practice” track with a field events area that can also serve our physical education program and provide a community walking track. In addition, we are looking at several options in the Philipstown community that are large enough for a full track. More discussion and planning time is needed to focus on one site.
A host of other problems.
The Little League field on the lower 9D area is school property. Anyone who has attended a Little League game is well aware of the serious problems that need to be addressed. In fact, our district Buildings and Grounds Committee believes that this must be our first priority. In addition, the bleachers at the “football” field do not meet current standards. The tennis courts are undersized and cracking. We have no restrooms at either location. There are a host of other problems too numerous to mention.
How do we move forward? On Wednesday, February 15th at 6 p.m. in the music room, the Board of Education is holding a special meeting to receive community input and to begin to develop a district plan and time table. Whatever plan is adopted the realities of the tax cap and the current economy must be considered. As your superintendent, I have thought about this for some time with our business manager, Anne Dinio. Once the scope of the project is determined we will develop a cost effective plan. Senator Greg Ball’s grant of $150,000 will propel us forward this summer, but this must be followed by larger plans to address the “game” field area on campus.
Be a part of the discussion. Attend the meeting on February 15th and our regular Board meetings where this issue will remain an on-going item on the Board’s agenda until a plan is completed.
Mark Villanti, Ed. D.
Q Superintendent of Schools