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Chester County Press

Residents address U-CF School Board about facilities plan

08/21/2018 11:30AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

A recently announced proposal to upgrade the outdoor athletic facilities at Unionville High School brought several people to the Aug. 20 meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board.

During public comment at the meeting, former school board member Holly Manzone told the board, “There's a lot of buzz around the community about this outdoor facilities plan. … We we have this public survey about the outdoor facilities, and the survey pretty much shows that everything's OK. About 60 percent of people had a positive opinion of the traffic flow, about 50 percent thought the recreational facilities are adequate. Overall, people seemed pretty content with the way things are. Then we hear that you're thinking about spending $10 million to improve it. It just seems this is something that we don't need to do – why is it being pursued? Why not just drop it and move on? There are a lot of people in this district who prefer that you'd focus on academics, rather than trying to find ways to justify sports things, particularly for outside groups.”

Board member Gregg Lindner added, “I just want to state for the record that there was no $10 million proposal last week, or the week before that, or this week.”

Speaking in favor of some aspects of the proposal was Ruth Russell, who has been an assistant tennis coach at the high school for the past decade. “Having six tennis courts for a varsity tennis team is like being handicapped. It impacts how long our matches go,” she said. “Varsity tennis is a seven-court sport. We don't have enough courts to finish a varsity match within daylight hours, let alone sometimes even allowing our JV teams to play. … We have high quality tennis teams. This would be a good time to bring us up to a varsity level, and while you're at it, add the eighth court, because it allows the JV team to rotate in and finish matches. As a taxpapyer, I would highly support moving the tennis courts to a place where we can finaly play a full varsity match.”

Echoing that support was Janet Johnston, who has coached the girls tennis team for more than a decade. “With a smaller number of courts, we are there sometimes longer than you might be watching a football game,” she said. “When you have six courts, you can't finish, but you also have sometimes 20 JV players who have to dovetail behind that. We want to give those kids the respect to play their matches. Many times, I'm embarrassed because I have to tell them to wrap it up, they can't finish the match. It becomes really hard for these kids to enjoy playing some of these sports if we don't provide first-class facilities for them.

“Our teams have gone to the state level many times, and people want to play us, because we're good,” Johnston continued. “For us to attract the better teams to come here, they've got to drive an hour or so. When we only have six courts, they say, 'We're not sure we want to come.' The tennnis program needs to have eight courts. That is state-of-the-art for high schools.”

Addressing the high school's grass athletic fields, Birmingham Township resident Arnold Klingenberg, who has a son entering the high school as a freshman this month, said, “Playing on the grass fields, at one point in time, was OK. But I've realized with my son, who plays soccer 24-7, when we go to other schools, they all have turf fields. They seem to be able to schedule better, the fields are in better condition, no one is twisting ankles. I'm in favor of improving the sports fields here.”

That was echoed by Angela Darlington, who is a booster for the women's soccer team. “I have two children that go here. They both play soccer,” she said. “With the turf situation -- we had a situation with tryouts this past week because we had so much rain that they had to shift all the tryouts that were going on. Then there are safety issues. Turf is much better to play on than grass.”

School board president Jeff Hellrung commented, “We're going to hear about the grounds plan final report next month. For the first time next month, we're also going to get a rough price esimate. The whole idea of this was to give the grounds full consideration, equal to our buildings. We will be asking for robust community, administation and board input. At the end of the line, we're going to integrate the plan into our 10-year plan. We're going to adopt none, or some, or all of the recommendations, depending on what is wise and appropriate for our students and community. Nothing actually happens, except year by year, when we debate again to see if the plan is still affordable. Nothing happens without input from the community, as well as robust input from the administration and the board. Only then, when we approve our budget each year, are we committed to take any steps.”

In board business, members voted unanimously to work being done to upgrade the HVAC system at Hillendale Elementary School, at a cost of $83,650. A replacement HVAC unit for the district's bus garage was also approved, at a cost of $9,375.

In his opening remarks, school district superintendent John Sanville said, “Today is one of my favorite days of the year, because we had Convocation. All of our staff members, teachers and support staff were present in the high school auditorium to kick off the new year. The theme this year is 'Making a Difference,' and we showed a video highlighting the good works of three of our folks, but we probably could have recognized literally hundreds of others who make a difference in the lives of our children every day.”

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To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].