Schools - March 24, 2010

Night lights will go on trial at M-A football field

by Dave Boyce

Night football games are likely to come to Menlo-Atherton High School in September, but at least for the 2011-12 season, the lights would be temporary, and that has everyone involved feeling pretty good, a school district official said.

Two of the communities affected — M-A students and Atherton neighbors of the school — spoke approvingly of the plan to try temporary lights for a year before considering a permanent installation, said Olivia Martinez, president of the governing board of the Sequoia Union High School District.

The discussion and public comment "went very well," Ms. Martinez said in an interview. "I think everybody went away satisfied."

A staff report is due in about 30 days, she added. The board gave staff direction to proceed, but has not yet voted on the question of whether to install the lights.

The lights would be plugged in rather than run on diesel-powered generators and would cost the district about $20,000 to install and $2,500 a month to rent, Ms. Martinez said. The money would be drawn from the district's bond funding for capital projects.

The district has little choice but to go with temporary lights. The Division of State Architect, the state agency overseeing construction at public schools, has a backlog that would push any consideration of permanent lights to November or December at the earliest, the district said.

In January, Atherton neighbors had asked for temporary lights as part of a go-slow approach out of concern for unwanted noise, light and possibly crime intruding into their community during night games. For their part, athletic team boosters pushed to begin a Friday night football tradition at M-A after 58 years without it.

The idea for night games gained momentum in October when M-A hosted Sacred Heart Preparatory High School in an experimental night football game that proved both popular and profitable.


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