Committee to participate in study of fields

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BRATTLEBORO — Four community members will be involved in a professional study of athletic fields.

"This conversation, this process, is not about turf or non-turf," Steve Perrin, principal of Brattleboro Union High School, said during the Windham Southeast School District Board of Directors meeting Wednesday. "This is about field use and facility access."

Perrin said the study will evaluate the need for "general site improvements" and how fields can be used more effectively in the future. It had been spurred on by conversations about installing synthetic turf on Natowich Field at the high school, the controversial project that had proponents saying artificial turf would provide more playing time to students and a more equitable experience for female athletes, and opponents raising concerns about the cost and environmental impact.

Last month, the board approved spending up to $28,000 on a study. On Wednesday, it appointed Marilyn Chiarello and Devin Rhodes to the Field Study Stakeholders Committee.

Board members Emily Muphy Kaur and David Schoales will appoint two more community members to the committee. They have been nominated but it was not yet known at the meeting whether they agreed to serve.

Kaur said the first of four meetings will include school personnel who will discuss the district's contract with Massachusetts-based Gale Associates Inc. and the scope of work expected. The committee will have its first meeting with Gale on Jan 22.

The company will present three project options to the committee at the following meeting. School administrators and coaches will vet the ideas, Kaur said.

Gale will present an option at the final meeting. That could be a combination of actions, Kaur said.

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Board member Shaun Murphy showed an interest in serving on the committee.

"I feel as if the gate has been closed before I can go through," he said.

Murphy worried that committee members all might have one viewpoint when it comes to Natowich Field. He has been supportive of installing a synthetic surface.

Board member Kelly Young described the prospective committee makeup to include an engineer, someone who "seems pro-alternative to turf," and a parent who supported artificial turf. Schoales said two potential committee members fit the third description.

"But it seemed like a good mix of people," Young said, "and it would be a nice sort of different perspectives."

Murphy said, "That makes me feel better."

Board Chairwoman Kristina Naylor said she would rather not have board members serve on the committee as that would change the dynamics.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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