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Board discusses potential facilities improvements during work session

on October 16, 2019

The Warwick Valley Central School District (WVCSD) Board of Education held a work session on Oct. 15 to discuss a potential capital project that seeks to enhance the district’s outdoor facilities and performing arts spaces. About 30 community members were in attendance to pose questions and share their aspirations for the future of the district’s facilities.

The workshop centered on a presentation by architects and engineers from LAN Associates outlining the district’s options for moving forward with a project that would renovate the district’s athletic fields, build an outdoor bathroom facility and upgrade the high school’s auditorium. 

The purpose of LAN’s presentation was two-fold: to explain the potential scope of the project and answer the Board and community’s questions.

Spurred partly by community feedback, one of the highlights of the project is the installation of two multi-purpose artificial turf fields at the Warwick Valley High School (WVHS) and Sanfordville Elementary School. Also under consideration is the expansion of the high school’s track surface from six to eight lanes and the installation of a bathroom facility near the grandstand of the high school athletic field.  

Over 20 athletic teams practice daily on WVCSD’s school grounds and play dozens of home games each season. The project’s lead architect, Matthew Milnamow, discussed the benefits of a synthetic turf for WVCSD’s sports programs. 

“Adding turf to the fields would increase play and practice time for all of Warwick’s athletic teams,” he said. “Both turf fields would be permanently striped for football, soccer and lacrosse and the district would no longer have to be concerned whether wear and tear from daily athletic practices would cause the field to fall apart.”

This multi-sport and year-round capacity would serve more student-athletes and sports programs. Namely, girls lacrosse and soccer teams would finally have the opportunity to practice and play on the high school field, noted Board of Education President Sharon Davis.

“Having a turf field at the high school would give all of our athletic teams the chance to play on our main competition field,” she said. “I can only imagine what a special moment that would be  in our female student-athletes’ eyes.” 

Also in support of increasing access to more athletic groups, community member and parent Jon Desrats echoed Mr. Milnamow’s and Mrs. Davis’ sentiments. 

“I see [the installation of a turf field] as an opportunity to extend our athletic season,” he said, pointing out the difficulties faced by athletes and coaches after inclement weather. “A little bit of rain or snow can take away from an athlete’s play time on a grass field, but since a turf field is easier to maintain, we wouldn’t experience those issues any longer.” 

Speaking from the crowd, Ron Introini, a community member who is also a Warwick parent and a coach at a nearby school district relayed how the addition of newer athletic programs, such as lacrosse, cause school fields to worsen at a much quicker rate. “Warwick’s current grass field looks great because it’s reserved primarily for football. If the soccer and lacrosse teams started to play on that field, it might become unplayable.” 

WVCSD Athletic Director Gregory Sirico pointed out the challenges of maintaining a football grass-field used for practice. Case in point, the WVHS homecoming game was the first time the football team played on the field in nearly a year. Inclement weather alone reduces the use of the grass football field to four varsity games a year.

According to LAN architects, the pros of installing a turf field include increased play time, freedom from weather restrictions and weather-related damage, durability and lower maintenance costs. Prompted by questions from Board members, architects discussed potential cons including higher upfront cost, the need for a specialized, professional installation, and concerns surrounding injury risks. 

Leonard DeBuck, a Warwick local and owner of DeBuck’s Sod Farm in Pine Island, advocated for keeping a natural grass field, expressed concern for potential shortcomings of synthetically infilled fields, and provided the board with information on the subject of critical fall heights. Mr. DeBuck’s observations spurred additional discussion led by Board of Education member Robert Howe regarding turf field wear, playability and whether the injury studies that LAN Associates cited in their presentations were relevant enough to view as reliable. 

The Board will consider a resolution for a capital project vote that would likely take place in mid-December at its next meeting on Monday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center. As with all capital project resolutions, the decision to move forward would ultimately rest with the voters.

While much of the discussion on Oct. 15 focused on athletic enhancements, the prospective projects that the board will consider include priority infrastructure work such as replacing a section of the high school roofing, flooring and electrical units, replacing a boiler and chiller at Sanfordville Elementary School and renovating the Park Avenue Elementary School’s media center and windows. 

“During our conversations about athletic enhancements, we’ve been simultaneously looking to our building condition survey,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach said. “As we consider our needs, we will remain committed to proposing only projects that maximize state aid and present no additional tax increase.”

State aid would cover about 64 percent of the total cost of any capital work. 

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