Supporters and opponents of the Edmonds School District’s plans to install artificial turf fields at the former Woodway High School campus pleaded their cases to the School Board of Directors at Tuesday’s meeting.
Those who spoke in favor of the fields included two high school athletes, a high school football coach, two high school athletic directors, the Edmonds School District athletic director and representatives from the Sno-King Youth Club, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, Northwest Nationals and Edmonds Lacrosse Club. Those who oppose the project included parents of students at Edmonds Heights K-12, an Edmonds Heights K-12 teacher and other concerned residents.
In large part because of all the testimony and material received on the project, the School Board decided to schedule a special study session at 5:45 p.m., Tuesday, April 21. Public testimony is not taken during study sessions unless the Board specifically allows it.
The Board likely will take action on the project at its May 12 meeting. The study session was scheduled on April 21 because the Board is supposed to make a separate decision on artificial turf fields at Edmonds-Woodway High School later this month.
Edmonds-Woodway junior Spencer Schultz, a football player, was excited about the additional opportunities the artificial turf fields would bring to athletes at his school. He noted that grass fields at the school are torn up by the end of the year.
“I’m sure it would be a great thing for the community and an awesome place for students to go,” Schultz said.
Sierra Johnson, a freshman at Edmonds Heights K-12, appreciated the enthusiasm that some students have for the new fields but felt that the emphasis on sports was overshadowing the fact that former Woodway High School site “is still a school and it’s a learning environment.”
The campus already is being used by students of all ages, Johnson added, and “it’s going to be so crowded out there.”
Peter Bennett, a former soccer coach and nearby resident, and Doug Sheldon, former president of Pacific Little League, both said that Edmonds currently lacks fields.
“Edmonds has never had great fields, so this would be a huge thing for the community,” Bennett said.
“This opens up much more opportunities for all of our kids to have an opportunity to play,” Sheldon said.
Edmonds School District athletic director Julie Stroncek said the fields could be used by all of the participating schools (Edmonds Heights K-12, Scriber Lake High School, VOICE) at the former Woodway High School site. The VOICE/Unified Sports (Special Olympics) program is becoming increasing popular in the district, Stroncek said.
MOVE 60!, the District’s after-school activity and exercise program, also would benefit by having the use of artificial turf fields rather than grass fields, Stroncek said. Finally, the District’s middle school teams and some of the high school teams also could access the fields.
Edmonds-Woodway football coach John Gradwohl said that additional fields would help provide some scheduling flexibility for teams at the high school. The boys soccer team is without a field on Thursdays due to the District hosting track and field meets at Edmonds Stadium. Gradwohl also is on the Board of Edmonds Youth Football and sees the project as positive for the area.
“I’m for anything we can do to increase fields in our community,” he said.
Representatives from the Northwest Nationals, Edmonds Lacrosse and Sno-King Youth Club all voiced support for the project.
“We’re kind of struggling with field space,” said Sno-King Director Adam Quaintance. “We actually had to turn kids away this spring because we didn’t have the facilities necessary to schedule games.”
Opponents of the artificial turf field project objected to the use of crumb rubber in the artificial turf, which is an option the District is considering. Several speakers were concerned about potential health impacts from crumb rubber and its possible link to cancer.
Other points expressed by opponents of the project included a desire to preserve an open space with natural grass and concerns about potential traffic problems.
“Crumb rubber has no business being in the school district,” Maggie Pinson said.
Erin Zackey, a teacher at Edmonds Heights K-12, has a classroom that will be right next to the fields.
“I’m very concerned about the toxic level of the emissions that will come off the field,” Zackey said.
In addition to saying that there has been a link made between cancer and crumb rubber, Christi Davis, a Brier resident, also alleged that portions of the SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) review were not filled out appropriately.
Kate Smith hoped the Board would consider a compromise that would combine playfields with open space.
“I see kids accessing this space for education value every day. It’s not PE. It’s science classes,” Smith said. “I’d really like to see part of it left as it is for those kids.”
“It’s a very special place and I think it needs to be preserved as much as possible in its natural environment for the current and future students of the Edmonds School District,” she said.
Laura Johnson, a mother with three children at Edmonds Heights K-12, said that the sports community doesn’t seem to understand that there is an active school community at the site.
“It just hurts to keep hearing that this needs to be all about sports,” Johnson said. “It’s supposed to be about education. There’s a school there. I’d like that to be the priority.”
– By David Pan