To the Editor:
Along with public safety, education is the primary responsibility of any community. As a conversation with any college or university admissions officer will confirm, extra-curricular activities such as drama and athletics, are pivotal components of this education. They provide real-world experience in team work, self-sacrifice, problem solving, resiliency, and sportsmanship. These experiences, not to mention the life long health benefits of participation in sports, will serve OR students well beyond graduation. Therefore, we, the residents of this community, must be committed to ensuring that the facilities for these activities not only are safe and meet the minimum requirements for participation but also promote participation among students and the desirability of our school system among potential property owners/new families.
The safety of the current facilities is, at best, debatable. The grassless, frequently muddy, and severely rutted nature of OR fields have and will continue to expose our children to lower extremity injuries such as ACL tears, sprained or broken ankles, and groin pulls. More ominously, these same defects and the bare hard packed dirt we call fields promote head injury from collisions and turn any fall into a potential concussion. If we agree the extracurricular activities benefit our children now, in their pursuit of higher education, and throughout their lives, we are obligated to provide safe facilities.
As they now exist, neither the drama facilities nor athletic fields meet the bare minimum standards for participation. The lighting system in the auditorium is non-functional, requiring rental of a temporary system to put on any performance. Without the rentals (and associated costs), drama members are left with only few rapidly failing manually operated spot lights. Additionally, the rigging system is failing and the sound board is aging. Playoff games have been moved to Tabor because of the state of our fields. Games are routinely cancelled due flooding and poor drainage. The possibility of opposing teams refusing to play at OR or officials deeming the fields unsafe for play becomes more likely with each season of use. Despite a perennially powerful track program, our track is in disrepair. The surface is worn in areas to pavement limiting traction and worsening the physical stress of impact. Subsequently, we are unable to host the conference championships or invitationals and have, to ensure top times for our athletes, moved meets to our opponent’s tracks.
Our fields and auditorium are (quite literally in the case of the auditorium where the town meeting and other town events are held) the gathering place and center pieces of our community. We should ensure they are, at least, safe and functional and, at best, a source of pride and a concrete manifestation of our commitment to our children and their education. Additionally, when restored both facilities promise to bring in revenue from rental to private groups and youth athletic programs.
Opponents have raised many objections to this program. It has been described as Olympic style and promoted by a special interest group. This hyperbole could not be further from the truth. The proposal has been scaled back dramatically in scope and cost (at least 2.5 million dollars less than the original plan) as the committees and individuals involved worked with the towns to decrease the financial impact. There is no allowance for bathrooms, new score board, permanent concession stand, redone baseball and softball fields, or a second turf field. Hardly an Olympic worthy plan. As for the alleged special interest group, if you mean parents, coaches, directors, actors, actresses, and athletes who share pride in our school and towns and are giving of their time, money, and effort to make it the best it can be … guilty as charged. Others have inspected (or walked on) the facilities and deemed them not as bad as portrayed. Having not coached or run track, played teams sports, or acted in or produced a play at OR, I defer to those who have and are pleading for functional facilities. Some question the safety of turf fields, especially the filler. There are no scientific studies substantiating any lifelong risk to athletes who play on turf fields only hearsay, fear mongering, and hyperbole. As parents of a lacrosse and field hockey goalie who has spent the last 6 years playing and often lying on turf and as emergency and family physicians, we have absolutely no concerns regarding the safety of turf. … none.
Finally, there is the cost. Simply put, if we are not willing to make this investment in our school – arguably the most visible and used symbol of our community – what are we willing to invest in? For approximately the price of 2 family pizzas per year per household, we can restore the pride, image, and safety of our school and, by extension, our community.
Mark J. Tenerowicz
Caitlin L Mann
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