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Turf fields, press boxes stay in school system CIP, Welcome Center, security measures moved up

After nearly two hours of discussion on amendments, the Loudoun County School Board approved its Capital Improvement Program and Capital Assessment Preservation Projects for fiscal years 2019 through 2024.

The CIP saw eight amendment proposals, six of which passed.

The only proposed amendments to fail were made by Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin), who moved to remove Freedom High School’s turf field and high school baseball and softball press boxes.

DeKenipp said he felt the $2.1 million Freedom project was not necessary, and the board shouldn’t install turf fields in a school just because other schools have them.

“I know for a fact this $2 million investment could be better spent,” DeKenipp said.

He also said the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study on possible toxins associated with the crumb rubber infill (CRI) used in the synthetic turf and the results will be published in coming months.

Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said that while she’s advocated for turf fields because of costs savings and community access, this was before knowing of possible health risks, and she now supports removing turf fields from budgets.

“I’m just not comfortable until we receive more information on the health risks,” Turgeon said.

DeKenipp said the board should wait for the results before installing more synthetic turf fields, in case the study finds the CRI does pose a health risk to students.

Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) disagreed, saying the EPA was supposed to publish results last year, and he doesn't think it's likely they’ll see results soon. He also said it’s an issue of equity because without turf, high school and South Riding community teams can’t use the the Freedom field in winter months, during reseeding or when it rains.

“This affects not just the high school, but also the community,” Morse said.

Like Morse, Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said she would not support the amendment because the fields add value to the school and surrounding community.

Rose also said when athletes can’t use a field because of rain, parents then have to spend more money to rent field space, which could be a barrier for some families. It also affects a team's ability to be competitive, she said.

The amendment failed with only DeKenipp and Turgeon in favor of removing the turf fields from the CIP.

DeKenipp’s amendment to remove high school baseball/softball press boxes would have saved $3.2 million. The CIP budgeted for two press boxes per high school in fiscal 2023, and DeKenipp said this was excessive.

Rose said LCPS could open itself to Title IX lawsuits if it provides baseball press boxes but not softball press boxes. DeKenipp said he disagreed, as baseball and softball press boxes would be cut equally.

Beth Huck (At Large) said she was concerned at the high cost — $640,000 per press box — but she was not comfortable taking the item out, especially since the project is not slotted until fiscal 2023 and staff has time to find ways to reduce the cost.

The amendment failed with only DeKenipp and Turgeon in support.

DeKenipp also proposed expediting the proposed Student Welcome Center and Adult Education program three years early to 2020. After discussion, DeKenipp changed his amendment to accelerate the project two years to 2021. The edited amendment passed unanimously.

Expediting the project two years instead of three would give staff more time to get an estimate on operating and administrative costs and secure a lease.

The welcome center would allow for daytime adult education and better serve the English Language Learner population by giving them a designated space and exposing them to resources, DeKenipp said.

Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) proposed moving up school security vestibules to fiscal 2020. He said that when he entered several central Loudoun schools, the office didn’t have direct eyesight of the front doors, which creates a security concern, particularly at older schools.

The vestibules would ensure all schools have similar secure entry paths so that all visitors would have to check in with office staff before moving around the building.

The project would provide security improvements to 51 elementary schools, 11 middle schools and 13 high schools, which Hornberger said made the acceleration worthwhile.

Hornberger said modified door locks and entrances in schools are already being partially funded, so it would be a good time to also create the security vestibules. Completing the projects together would also reduce the cost from more than $16 million to $14.35 million.

The amendment passed unanimously.

DeKenipp also attempted to amend the CIP to eliminate the $50.5 million Elementary School 24 project.

The school would be in central Loudoun, where DeKenipp said enrollment growth will peak and decline after two years, so it does not make sense to build ES-24 when LCPS could expand existing schools.

Board Vice Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) made a substitute motion to push the ES-24 project to fiscal 2024 to give staff more time to track enrollment growth to see if the school is necessary. Staff budgeted for ES-24 because of the Tuscarora Crossing development and other approved, unplanned residential developments in Leesburg.

Sheridan’s substitute amendment passed unanimously.

Joy Maloney (Broad Run) made a motion to accelerate the $12 million for site acquisition and design for MS-14 one year to 2022 and the $92 million cost to build in 2023. Since other projects were accelerated, it has freed funds for the needed middle school earlier. The motion passed with only DeKenipp in opposition.

Lastly, Sheridan amended to delay radio equipment replacement from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2023, and another by Morse proposed expanding LCPS’ broadband to keep up with student growth and the increased classroom technology use. Both passed unanimously.

The amended CIP passed 8-1 with DeKenipp opposed. Supervisors will receive the amended CIP and weigh it against their budget.

The CAPP saw two amendments proposed by Rose to benefit Meadowland Elementary.

Meadowland has not been renovated since its opening, yet it appeared lower in the CAPP for renovation projects. Rose worked with staff to find capital to give the school some relief sooner.

One amendment shifted items around to accelerate window replacement at Meadowland to fiscal 2019 for a cost neutral motion. The amendment passed unanimously.

The second added $155,000 into fiscal 2020 to replace sinks and add storage units and coat hooks, which Meadowland doesn’t have. The amendment passed, with DeKenipp in opposition.

The amended CAPP passed unanimously.

Comments


$3,200,000 for improvements to the football fields and accessories.  Does the drama department also get a $3,200,000 stage lighting and sound system? I’m guessing not.

Football players are treated like Party members.  As George Orwell once said, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.


When your school district has $3.2M to spend on PRESS BOXES, you know your district is grossly overfunded and has its priorities completely out of whack.

Drain the LCPS swamp!


How in the world does a baseball/softball press box cost $640k? And, doesn’t Freedom already have press boxes? Are they going to tear the current boxes down and build new ones? Doesn’t make much fiscal sense.


We can always trust Debbie Rose to prioritize turf and press boxes (that cost more than the median home price btw) over textbooks and effective educational analysis tools.


Get rid of the crumb rubber fields.


If you move something up push other items down. You get your cake and eat it too.

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