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Chester County Press

U-CF School District airs artificial turf pros and cons

01/29/2019 09:13AM ● By J. Chambless

By JP Phillips

At the four-hour Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board work session on Jan. 14, a few residents spoke in opposition to the district’s proposed addition of two artificial turf athletic fields. Much later in the evening, U-CF administration presented their view on why the fields make sense.

Residents spoke about the lack of a thorough needs assessment to justify building the fields, the cost to taxpayers, the lack of relationship to academic achievement, and the potential health risks artificial turf can cause. There appeared to be mistrust between some residents and the district. Some residents thought the facilities plan was being pushed through without considering other options.

Jack Greenwood of East Marlborough Township spoke of the transient nature of many families in the district. “They come in front of the board and administration and say they want this, they want that, and it gets incorporated,” Greenwood said. “And then, when their kids are out of school, they move on. And the rest of us who want to live here, we get stuck paying for it.”

Greenwood added, “The majority of the people that you’re going to hear from about any project you do are the parents who have kids that are actively engaged here at the school. For some reason, the older people, they don’t take the time to come out and voice their opinions.”

Former board member Holly Manzone, from Pocopson Township, brought up several health and safety concerns with synthetic fields. She said her research showed that artificial turf does not release cleats as well as natural grass, leading to more injuries. She also said the materials used contain carcinogens.

During Jan. 14 board comments, many board members requested that the residents reach out to them individually to have more thorough conversations. Board member Bob Sage publicly addressed some of the raised concerns. “We can disagree about what can be done without accusing the board and board members of bad faith in discussing these issues,” he said. “I can assure you that I am not interested in spending money for the sake of money. I don’t come into these meetings finding a way to spend taxpayer money. I’m a taxpayer.”

Sage also commented on the health and safety aspects of artificial turf based on several studies he read. “There’s quite a bit of a difference between something containing carcinogens and having harmful levels of carcinogens,” he said, “so let’s not jump hastily to conclusions about health hazards without looking carefully at the science.”

Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds James Whitesel was joined by Supervisor of Athletics Pat Crater for a presentation that explained the benefits of adding the double turf fields.

Crater said that with the addition of the extra fields, practices and games could be done by 6 p.m., instead of the current 9 p.m. Unlike grass, artificial fields can handle almost unlimited use. Whitesel added that because of the high usage potential, the per-use cost of the artificial fields over a 15-year period is less, even though installation costs are higher.

The artificial turf double field, if approved, is penciled in for year four of the ten-year Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP).

A few residents spoke at the Jan. 28 board meeting in support of the new fields. Citing better scheduling, a flatter playing surface, and safer practice space for the marching band, they thought it was worth the nominal tax increase. If the double-turf project is approved, taxes would increase by $11 to $38 annually.

Board president Jeff Hellrung stated that borrowing for years one through three of the LRFP would be voted on during February’s board meeting. That means that a decision on the artificial turf project must be made over the next few weeks.

During the Jan. 28 board meeting, the board approved turf replacement of the existing artificial field after 11 years of use, phase II of the HVAC project at Hillendale Elementary, a new maintenance truck, and a chiller at Pocopson Elementary School. They also put forth for public review the proposed 2019-20 school calendar, which closes school on election day for the first time.

The board also approved giving high schoolers course options in lieu of the previously mandatory Essential Computer Applications (ECA). Since most students are already computer savvy, they can now choose from a menu of one-semester classes that include ECA, Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship, Criminal Justice, Web Development, Python and C++ Programming.

Link to Long Range Facilities Plan field rationale and financing presention:$file/LRFP%20Options%20for%20Financin...

Link to Long Range Facilities Plan: