Last week about 75 parents, students and school district officials met to discuss the need for, and concerns about, having lights installed at the San Marin High School athletic field.
A scoping meeting was held Sept. 7 to garner public input as part of the Environmental Impact Report process.
The lights and an accompanying public address system would cost about $750,000, according to estimates by Jim Hogeboom, superintendent of the Novato Unified School District.
The issue arose last year when a grassroots effort was spearheaded by parents of San Marin High students and the leaders of San Marin Football and Cheer who came together and decided to advocate for lights.
The proposal, which includes a single row eight-pole system, garnered more than 1,000 signatures online earlier this year.
Leslie Benjamin, spokeswoman for the Novato Unified School District, said last week’s gathering was the latest in a number of meetings with the community regarding the subject.
“We wanted to have a very public process,” Benjamin said.
For some, the proposed lighting system is viewed as a necessity. Ben Philpot, San Marin High boys soccer coach, said since his sport was moved to the winter last year by the California Interscholastic Federation, practices have had to be moved up because it gets dark earlier. Philpot said the effect on his student-athletes has been missing class Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“Kids are missing a lot of school,” he said. “We have 20 on JV (junior varsity) and 20 on varsity. I did the math and last year they missed 255 hours of educational time,” Philpot said.
He said this year he plans to advise his soccer players that if they are having trouble in a subject not to schedule it for seventh period because of the class time that will be missed.
Philpot said other sports like lacrosse have the same issue.
Oakland-based Rincon Consultants Inc. presented findings of a draft study on the project. Critics were not impressed.
Mike Joly said he found the study lacking in many areas. Joly said he is concerned about noise, traffic and litter holding nighttime games would attract.
“When San Marin was built there was a tacit agreement the school will be for daytime use. Now they’re changing it to a nighttime use,” Joly said. “Novato High School said they do not want lights. They choose to be a good neighbor.”
Joly said he believes the light project is a low priority, citing a study the school district commissioned that shows lighted fields ranks 16th among 17 listed priorities.
The school board will review Rincon’s findings and public comment about the lights issue at its meeting on Tuesday.
A vote on whether to pursue the lighting project could come before the board as early as February. Benjamin said the district has not yet identified where the money for the lighting project will come from should it be approved.