B-A school officials ponder athletic field problems

An all-purpose practice field located between Myers Elementary School and the Bellwood-Antis High-Middle School has seen its toll of traffic over the years.
Not only is the field used for high and middle school physical education classes, junior and senior high and pee wee football practice, track and field practice and events and band practice, but also as a prime parking area for visitors to Bellwood-Antis events.
All this traffic, over the years, has caused the earth to pack significantly, caused a good number of large ruts to appear, and cause an infiltration of rock and stone gravel, thus providing unsafe conditions for those who use the field.
Now, with the problem brought to the forefront, board officials will try to determine what can be done to prevent the destruction.
“We moved our football practices to the baseball field as a matter of choice,” said the district’s athletic director and varsity football coach John Hayes at last evening’s informational session with the school board. “The situation there is dangerous and repairs to it are a need that should have been realized sooner.”
Last year, Hayes said he needed to move the varsity’s practice to the baseball field after the harsh summer damaged the already chewed-up field even more. Moving to the baseball field, according to Hayes, cut an average of more than 30 minutes off his team’s practice program each day.
“It’s been real easy to tell the kids that they won’t play on any worse condition so this ‘toughens them up,’ but now we’re to the point that it’s outright dangerous out there. We feel something really needs to be done.”
The problem, according to Superintendent Rodney Kuhns, is parking. The field is used by nearly everyone attending an event of the school district.
“What we really should consider is controlling parking on that piece of ground,” said Kuhn. “Not necessarily cut out parking there completely, but limit when parking can occur.”
Board officials met the topic with mixed reactions. Most agreed that something should be done, but many noted the district’s lack of funds for such a project. Numbers between $20,000 and $50,000 were tossed around as a ballpark figure for the field’s renovations, which would include softening the earth, leveling the area and finally re-seeding the area with grass.
Board members tossed ideas around concerning where funding or assistance could come from for such a project. Ideas included selling district property, utilizing resources in the community such as farmers and Penn State Cooperative Extension, and possibly realizing the situation in the district’s annual banquet.
“What we need to realize here is that we’re dealing with the safety of our students and our programs,” said board member Scott Boyer. “It’s definitely an issue that we must address.”
Kuhns said that if renovations were made to the field, something would have to be done to curb the parking on the field. He said parking there wouldn’t be restricted, only limited, and cited occasions such as inclement weather or existing snowfall would be reasons for not allowing visitors to park there.
“We understand the need for parking on the field when Bishop Guilfoyle or Tyrone comes here to play,” said Kuhns. “That’s why we need to look at this thing and decide what we can do. Maybe we can designate certain areas for parking. It’s something we need to look into.”
Kuhns said board members will take a harder look at the issue and bring proposals for a solution to the district in the next few months.
Also during the work session, the board outlined a number of items that are scheduled to be voted on at next week’s meeting. These items include:
• Board President Ken Loucks’ attendance at the Annual Federal Relations Network Conference in Washington D.C. Feb. 2 through 4.
• the addition of a bus stop at the intersection of East Fourth Street and state Route 865 for students K through 12 who reside on the right hand side of SR 865 north. A recent state department of Transportation study indicates that vehicular traffic on Rt. 865 meets the requirement to qualify as a hazardous route for both elementary and secondary students who must walk across the roadway en route to school.
• to deny a request of Mountain Laurel Day Care and Pre-School, Inc. for transportation services. The area on the left side of 865 and east side of the main rail line to the school is not designated as hazardous and therefore does not qualify for transportation.
• to accept the 2001-02 School District Audit Report as prepared by Young, Oakes, Brown and Company as presented.
• to authorize the administration to advertise for bids for general supplies and equipment for the 2003-04 school year.
• to authorize the administration to advertise for bids for new band uniforms. Uniforms are replaced every 10 years as stated in the district’s policy. An example of the new uniforms will be displayed at the Jan. 14 meeting.
• to approve the following volunteers for the elementary boys’ basketball program, pending receipt of clearance: Jeff Steffen, Kris Wolfe, Mike Isola, Ken Denny, Bill McCrum and Buddy Austin.
• to revise the title of musical stage manager and assistant stage crew advisor to music department aide at a salary of $1,714.04.