Parents and alumni of C.K. McClatchy High School set the stage last month when they complained, yet again, about athletic fields in disrepair.
This time, the Sacramento City Unified School District seems ready to take action. Thursday night, trustees will consider approving $10 million to renovate facilities at five high schools, including the Land Park campus.
On Tuesday, the track encircling the football field was weed-strewn and pockmarked with gouges and dirt clumps. Left from the heavy winter rains were an uneven mosaic of dried-mud running soles. The nearby pole vault runway had broken sections – and still remained in use.
Sonja Cortez, 17, said she had been using the track for three months and believes it is dangerous.
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“I must say, it’s kind of awful. You can easily trip. I mean, you’re running in dirt. Especially when it’s raining when we’re out here. It sucks because there are a lot of injuries sometimes.”
“It would be great if we could have a new track,” added Cortez, a junior. “That way, maybe we could actually have track meets here instead of going to other schools” to compete.
A McClatchy booster group, Restore the Roar, says the girls’ soccer field is often unplayable and the football field has bare spots. Former McClatchy baseball coach Bernie Church has said the school has “the worst school facilities in the city.”
“They are recognizing that the community is not only in support but is demanding some improvement,” said Brian Nelson, a Restore the Roar board member. “The schools have been in a state of disrepair for a long time and continue to deteriorate.”
At their Thursday meeting, trustees will consider tapping $10 million in Measure Q bond money for McClatchy, Luther Burbank, Hiram Johnson, Rosemont and Kennedy high schools, trustee Jay Hansen said this week. The move comes after more than 100 people filled a community forum March 20 to lodge complaints and hear explanations from district officials.
“It’s clear it’s a priority to the community, and I want us to be responsive,” Hansen said. “All the board members have heard from the community that this is something that’s really important to them. We wanted to get moving on it, and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a brief report to trustees, district staff outlined what parents have long known – that the majority of fields in the district are “in desperate need of signification renovation and/or rebuilding.”
“Years of wear and tear, drought conditions, no state deferred maintenance funding and, in some cases, gopher infestation, have left most fields in unsatisfactory condition for play,” the report says.
Burbank Principal Jim Peterson said junior varsity and varsity students cannot play baseball or softball because of the field conditions at the south Sacramento school.
“Every one of their games has to be played at another school site, which is a cost to us.”
He noted that Burbank a few years ago had a new stadium constructed for football and soccer games. Now, he said, students at Johnson and McClatchy high schools play their soccer games at Burbank.
“We’re happy to host them,” he said, “but it also puts more wear and tear on our facilities.”
In 2012, voters approved $414 million in bond funds through two proposals. Measure Q focused on classrooms and main campus buildings, as well as technology and laptops.
Measure R focused largely on health and safety improvements, including upgrades at playgrounds and athletic fields, as well as campus furnishings and a central facility to prepare student meals. The district recently committed the remaining $30 million in Measure R funds toward a central district kitchen.
District officials have long said the Measure Q money could not be used for athletic fields. But as public pressure mounted over the neglected and increasingly dangerous McClatchy fields, the district proposed a quick solution.
Spokeswoman Maria Lopez this week said Measure Q funds cannot fund new athletic facilities but can finance renovations.
“The reason we need the funding to renovate the existing facilities is to address the safety concerns,” Lopez said in an email. “We want to make sure the fields are playable and reduce risk of injury.”
To date, the district so far has sold $146 million of Measure Q bonds and $27.1 million of Measure R bonds.
In a related issue Thursday night, board members will consider authorizing sale of another $122 million in general obligation bonds. Of that, $112 million would be Measure Q bonds and the other $10 million would be Measure R bonds to further work on a planned land swap and construction of a central kitchen.