Board OKs temporary lights at M-A for sports


This is an expanded version of a story previously posted.

Let there be light, said the governing board of the Sequoia Union High School District, and, within certain limits, there will now be lights for a maximum of four night football games per season at Menlo-Atherton High School, where darkness has prevailed for some 59 years.

In a unanimous vote, the five-member board agreed on Sept. 1 to proceed with the installation of temporary light towers at M-A's Coach Parks Field and agreed to a plan that would also allow up to six evening soccer games and six evening lacrosse games per season.

The lights must be out by 10:30 p.m. for the football games, and only the football games can use a public address system. The soccer and lacrosse games can have lights until 8:30 p.m. and cannot play on weekends, with these same restrictions applying to other activities such as evening practices.

The change is in line with the school's new schedule that has students starting the day about an hour later. Research shows that teens need more sleep and the district has encouraged schools to change their schedules accordingly.

M-A athletes have also had to sacrifice class time to play afternoon games. Should the lights not go in, "it might be hard to put as many girls on the field," M-A girls soccer coach Paul Snow told the board before its vote.

Eight people from the audience spoke, including M-A parents, athletic coaches and teachers, all in support of the lights.

While no one spoke in opposition, a group of Atherton residents have sued the district, alleging failure to comply with state regulations on environmental impacts and local regulations on athletic-field lighting, heights of structures and noise limits.

The state permits school districts to exempt themselves from local zoning ordinances for projects such as this one. The board voted on such a resolution and it passed unanimously.

The temporary lights are a placeholder while the Sequoia district studies the impact of permanent lights with respect to Atherton neighbors' concerns, including parking, safety, artificial light and noise.

The board seemed agreeable to a suggestion by board member Lorraine Rumley that the district open a line of communication with neighbors and providing a point person for complaints.

The school needs to be a good neighbor, M-A boys lacrosse coach Steven Kryger said, but "we want to give the community a chance to come together and support our student athletes as a whole."

An experimental night game in November drew a large and enthusiastic crowd and much higher gate and snack-bar receipts.

The process leading up to temporary lights, said board member Chris Thomsen, has been "a thoughtful community effort to try to work with the neighbors."

"I think it's pretty clear," added board member Alan Sarver, "that the firm voice of opposition is encapsulated within the lawsuit."

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Like this comment
Posted by Atherton Parent
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm

This is great to hear. Congrats to MA and their sports programs.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Great news. Congratulations to the kids, families, educators and the greater community.

Coincidentally, our country's top educator was on NPR around lunch time today stressing the importance of after school programs for our education system, including programs such robotics, drama and yes, even after school sports to enrich and even keep many students engaged until they find their path.

From a hastily found bio on Secretary Duncan:

"Duncan, known for transforming underperforming schools and experimenting with new models, has a record as a pragmatist with a taste for innovations. His version of reform, judging by his record, centers on boosting teacher quality and supporting students with added services such as after-school programs. "

Methinks he would approve of the unanimous decision by our local board.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 2, 2010 at 2:46 pm

If impacted neighbors aren't willing to attend the SUHSD board meeting and voice their concerns, then their earlier complaints seem somewhat hollow...

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2010 at 3:17 pm

This is good news. Why shouldn't the school have lights for night football games. I agree, if the neighbors who were opposed to the lights can't attend the boad meeting to voice their complaint/concerns shows they would rather file law suits. I hope the judge that hears this case points this out to them. They are probably the same people who didn't attend any of the meetings to discuss the use of lights with the the high school.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm

"While no one spoke against the lights,"

I agree with Pogo, if none of the neighbors even took the time to attend this meeting and express their concerns then they will get exactly what they deserve.

Like this comment
Posted by Oak Grove Neighbor
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 17, 2010 at 3:30 am

i get the logic. you buy a home at a steep discount because it backs up to a school then over the years you work methodically to strip away some of the activities which make a high school a high school (i.e. aluminum bats, evening football practices (which become critical when you hit the playoffs due to the very early sunset in november) etc etc. If you Oak Grove residents dont like the school then move to Palo Alto or woodside or Redwood City - oops, i guess not, they ALL have lit football fields too and since you can only afford discounted properties i guess you are stuck on oak grove. I guess you better suck it up - lights are coming!

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Oak Grove Neighbor -

It is your post has no logic.

You said the strategy was to buy cheap (which is difficult to believe in itself!) and then "work methodically to strip away some of the activities."

A point of fact for you - lights, PA systems and night football games DID NOT EXIST when any of these people purchased their homes. No one is stripping away anything, they are trying to limit a NEW use.

But I do agree that some limitation on days and hours that does not migrate (as it often does) would be a positive result for our entire community.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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