School committee defers major repairs to track

Delay approved in light of expected deal with nonprofit group.

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The winter track team practices after school on Dec. 6. The school committee has agreed to put track upgrades on whole while a nonprofit works out funding for athletic field overhauls. — Stacey Rupolo

Update:

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School committee voted Monday night not to undertake extensive repairs of the high school track this summer, in anticipation of an expected agreement with a nonprofit group that will result in a comprehensive remake of the school’s athletic fields.

The new track is projected to be available for use for the spring 2019 season, Mollie Doyle, a member of The Field Fund, told the committee.

The committee took its action after a briefing by two members of The Field Fund, a grassroots group which has raised more than $1 million for the project to renovate MVRHS playing surfaces. Their plan calls for a natural grass playing surface based on an environmentally correct design of the fields and their underlayers.

Ms. Doyle, Rebekah Thomson, and Dardy Slavin are prime movers of The Field Fund. Ms. Doyle told the committee on Monday that the organization has created a nonprofit corporation, and that legal paperwork is expected to be completed this week to create terms of a formal agreement with MVRHS that will allow the fund to undertake field renovations over the next several years. The fund will also provide for ongoing maintenance after project completion.

The decision to delay substantial track repairs will require MVRHS staff to undertake temporary repairs, and likely require rescheduling several fall 2017 track events. Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy, and track coach Joe Schroeder all attended the meeting, and Mr. Schroeder said he would begin rescheduling several home events as away contests.

Ms. Doyle reported progress on several fronts in the fast-moving process. She said soil, environmental, and field design experts will visit this month to survey conditions of the playing surfaces and the land beneath them.

“We have identified an excellent candidate who could serve as a general contractor/project manager, helping us and the school implement the major changes,” she said. “We look forward to jumping in as soon as the legal work is completed.”

The speed with which the the project is moving is in sharp contrast to more than a year of public wrangling, essentially centered on whether artificial or synthetic turf should be used. MV@Play, another ad hoc group, had an agreement with MVRHS to undertake the fields renovation project with an eye to some use of synthetic turf.

Several committee members urged caution on several grounds, including assurance that sufficient funds will be in place to complete the project. Ms. Doyle agreed to provide ongoing financial reporting and updates. Specifically, she said that donor fundraising continues to be successful, and that the group will submit grant requests within the next 10 days to the UMass Lowell Toxic Use Reduction Institute and the Vineyard Golf Club Foundation. Both organizations are supportive of the grant requests, she said.

The school committee had the track repair as its sole agenda item, and following Ms. Doyle’s update, spent considerable time planning ways and means for the school and project organizers to keep the public informed.

Story has been updated to correct the date the track will be completed and to correct the spelling of Mollie Doyle’s name.