EUHSD policy dials down track, outdoor facility hours
The Exeter Union High School District Board set permanent public use hours for its all-weather track and other outdoor facilities earlier this month.
The unanimous vote at the board’s Jan. 16 meeting approved two sets of hours, one for March 1 through Nov. 30 and another Dec. 1 through Feb. 28. From March through November, the track will be open to the public from 6-7:30 a.m. and from 3:30-9 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday. During the winter months, the track will be open from 6-7:30 a.m. and 3:30-7 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. The track will be closed during school hours from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, during scheduled school events, on Sundays and designated holidays. As of press time, signs with the new hours were posted at the track, but were not readily posted at the tennis courts and basketball courts.
Superintendent Tim Hire said separate hours were approved to account for the additional hours the lights are used to illuminate the track due to the shorter days during the winter months.
“The stadium lights are not only expensive to leave on but also to replace,” Hire said. “The longer the lights are on, the more it costs and will have to be replaced sooner.”
In October, the board had approved temporary hours from 5:30-7:30 a.m. and 3:25-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5:30-10:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Those hours were never meant to be permanent and were implemented until the board could approve a formal EUHS Open Facility Use Policy.
The change represents an additional 10 hours of public use on Saturday, but a loss of five hours on Sunday and an hour and 45 minutes Monday through Friday. Overall, public use at the track was reduced by nearly four hours per week. Those hours were also extended to EUHS’ other outdoor facilities including the tennis courts and basketball courts.
“I didn’t say anything at the last meeting,” said Dennis Dismuke, an avid runner and staunch proponent of keeping the track open to the public. “They just floored me with their lack of interest and the whole thing was over in a minute.”
The policy also set new rules for members of the public using the track, including:
Bleachers and grass are off limits at all times
Runners and joggers use lanes 1-4
Walkers, including those with strollers, use lanes 5-9
Animals are not allowed
No gum allowed on the track
Maximum spike length is 3/16”
No non-approved wheeled vehicles and equipment such as automobiles, golf carts, bicycles, rollerblades etc.
“A lot of people ran on the bleachers like a stairmaster and now they aren’t being allowed to do that,” Dismuke said. “This not an ‘Open Use Policy’ it is more like a ‘Reduced Use Policy.’”
Dismuke said he noticed the track’s public use hours had been steadily reduced last year. In the fall of 2011, Dismuke said the track was closed immediately following home football games and the weekends that followed. The track was then locked during holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter in 2012. Last summer, Dismuke said residents were locked out of the track the entire week of graduation and all of June due to reseeding of the field. In October 2012, Dismuke said he was nearly locked into the track before catching a maintenance worker locking the gates following an EUHS football practice.
“They never closed the track up until a little over a year ago,” Dismuke said. “I could run at midnight or 4 a.m. and the track was open.”
In an October interview, Principal Frank Silveira said the track was closed last summer, in part, due to vandalism. He said trash cans were lit on fire and portions of the track surface were being ripped up, with damages totaling several thousands of dollars in damage over the summer months.
However, the new policy will cost the district an estimated $4,000 annually to contract a private security company to open and close the gate when district staff are not on duty despite listing “cost containment” as one of the policy’s three major priorities. The district proposal said the service would cost $20 per hour for between 170-200 hours per year.
“One instance of vandalism could easily be more than the amount of the annual contract,” Superintendent Hire said. “We had thousands of damage in just a short period of time.”
The all-weather track was built with the intention of being open to the community. On Jan. 30, 2004, the Exeter Community Health Fund (ECHF), formerly the board of directors of Exeter’s Memorial Hospital, presented a check for $312,000 to the Exeter Union High School District board.