Extra money: Francis Howell high schools to get synthetic turf
Pleasing students and parents of sports, band, and other groups, the Francis Howell School Board unanimously approved a measure at a recent meeting to install artificial turf fields at Francis Howell Central and Francis Howell North high schools.
Also included in the capital improvements are science lab renovations at Barnwell and Hollenbeck middle schools, and restroom renovations at Barnwell Middle and Castlio, Fairmount and Becky David elementary schools. The funds will come from leftover money from bonds that voters approved in 2008.
Parents, students, and some board members had been seeking to replace the athletic fields at the central and north high school campuses with synthetic fields because of their benefit over grass, and to get more use from them. Francis Howell High already has artificial turf fields.
Board member Eric Seider says he heard recently from a representative of Parkway School District in St. Louis County that after installing synthetic turf at one of their campuses the use of the field jumped from “55 to 60 events to over 500” a year.
And, Seider explained that some activities — such as marching band competitions — are important revenue sources for school groups, but that other schools will not commit to competitions on grass fields because of having to allocate funds for events that could be later rained out.
Maintenance can also be an issue with grass fields — such as the drought the country experienced this past summer. Artificial turf, however, needs to be replaced at about 10 years.
Board member Mark Lafata asked about budget impacts for annual maintenance and replacement of turf because he didn’t want to use “20-year bond money to replace a 10-year expenditure.”
District CFO Kevin Supple said his team and the district’s facilities committee will be looking at those costs as part of an overall “life cycle replacement plan” the district is creating for all its capital improvements.
The two fields are budgeted to cost $1.4 million, with the renovations at the other schools costing $2.15 million. Supple explained that some work to the fields can be done during the winter when the fields are not being used. The building renovations will be done when the current school year ends.
In 2008 voters approved $78.5 million in bonds for capital improvements. District CFO Kevin Supple explained that “favorable construction pricing allowed the district to complete all of the initially identified projects below their initial cost estimates.”
The initial projects the funds financed included construction of a new gym and other improvements at Francis Howell High School, renovations at Castlio and Daniel Boone elementary schools, upgrades at Francis Howell North, and other district facility improvements.
This past April the board considered a second set of priorities to use about $6-million of leftover funds. Renovations of heating and air conditioning systems at Barnwell and Fairmount, and improvements to the north and central high school athletic facilities were approved.
Director Mike Sommer said at the end of its Oct. 18 board meeting that it was “amazing how fast news travels. I just got a text from a parent at the Cardinals game who thanked the board for giving us turf.”