U-CF school board approves artificial turf fields
By J. Chambless
The new double turf fields will be built on this site at the Unionville High School campus. Two new grass fields will be constructed near the current bus depot.
By JP Phillips
Ever since last June, when the outdoor master plan proposal was introduced by K&S Consulting, Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board meeting comments were dominated by residents who were both for and against various aspects of the plan, especially the artificial turf project.
Months of turf talk came to an end on Feb. 25, when the school board unanimously approved financing that included the fields.
Board president Jeff Hellrung thanked residents for the numerous public comments, e-mails and conversations. “I just want to prepare everyone that probably none of you will get exactly what you want,” he said at the Feb. 20 work session, regarding the master plan. “I know I’m not going to get exactly what I want out of this project either, but we are going to try to do something that’s in the best interest of both our students and our community.”
Some of K&S’s suggestions were penciled into the district’s Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), which divvies out projects over the next ten years. The board does not approve the LTFP; rather, they approve financing for projects planned over the next few years. Each year, fully fleshed-out projects are discussed as part of usual business.
On Monday, the board approved $9.1 million of the $14 million needed to finance the first three years of the LRFP, plus the turf fields planned for year four. The district’s fund balance will make up the difference. Most items are routine, such as roof, carpet and heater replacements in some of the district’s six schools. The only included items from the K&S proposal are the new double turf field ($2 million), two grass fields ($400,000), and field safety netting ($150,000).
Board member Vic Dupuis noted that school financing rates are at historic lows. “The timing is tremendous,” he said. Director of Business and Operations Bob Cochran added that this is the first issuance for new money since the high school expansion project in 2009-10. Any other borrowing was done to refinance old debt at more favorable rates.
In order for the artificial turf fields to be constructed, two grass fields will need to be built in the bus garage area. Preparation will begin as soon as ground studies, plans, permits and contracting are completed. Though the double field is not planned until 2022, many board members made it clear that sooner is better.
Other hotly debated items in the outdoor master plan – such as new tennis courts, a field house, parking, and traffic flow improvements – are not in this borrowing issue. Financing for projects planned for years four through six will likely happen in late 2020 or early 2021. Superintendent John Sanville said that a report on parking and traffic flow will be presented this spring.
The board also unanimously passed the preliminary 2020-21 budget of $98.6 million during the Feb. 18 work session. Cochran explained that the budget is a “worst-case scenario” that represents a weighted 3.63 percent increase – 3.65 percent for Chester County residents, and 3.58 percent for Delaware County. Since PA Act 1 law dictates that weighted increases cannot exceed 2.3 percent, the board approved registering $856,000 in exceptions with the state.
Sanville made it clear that this preliminary budget is submitted as per state law, and the final number will be less. “As the administration and board work over the spring to shave costs where they can, our real work is ahead of us,” Sanville said.
The 2020-21 approved school calendar was upheld after debating if it was wise to have the April 28 primary day as the first snow day. The calendar has two other snow days built into the schedule; primary day will be used should a third day is needed.