TJ High to get artificial turf field

March 30th – Gov. Thomas Johnson High School will soon be home to an artificial turf field.

The Frederick County Board of Education has approved a transfer of funds that – along with a combination of other funds – cover the cost of installing a turf field at Frederick High School downtown.

The project is scheduled to start this summer and be completed in the fall. According to Paul Lebo, Chief Operating Officer of Frederick County Public Schools, it will be built in conjunction with a track replacement project. Lebo said not only was it more efficient to complete both projects at the same time, but it also reduced the overall cost.

TJ will be the sixth high school in the county to have an artificial turf field. The remaining four schools with lawns are the high schools in Brunswick, Catoctin, Tuscarora, and Walkersville.

The TJ High Community has been working on installing a turf field for nearly a decade. The school’s athletics booster club raised about $ 200,000 for the project, but it was never enough to fund the company in full. Three years ago the board members discussed transferring funds to complete the project. However, at the time, there were two main issues that prevented the measures from being taken, Lebo said.

The first was cost. The boosters had raised a significant amount of money, but the remaining cost was still too high for the board to cover.

The second concern was how the field would continue to be maintained and what funds would cover its ongoing replacement.

Both concerns have now been dispelled, Lebo recently told board members in a meeting. The current cost of the project can be financed through the funds raised by the boosters, a $ 50,000 grant to Maryland State projects jointly awarded to FCPS and the TJ High Booster, and a cash transfer of $ 400,000 from the operating budget of the FCPS fund.

An exact price tag was not included with the project, but FCPS officials expect the $ 650,000 to cover the turf field and subsequent installation.

The story goes on

Ongoing field maintenance is covered by funds raised in the new FCPS Artificial Turf Fund, which was set up last summer with the sole purpose of maintaining artificial turf fields throughout the school system.

Artificial turf fields are sought after by the school’s sports directors for two main reasons, said Brandon Oland, spokesman for the FCPS. Artificial grass fields do not require as much maintenance and games can be played when bad weather conditions or overuse could have canceled an event on natural grass.

“The [school] Stadiums operate almost every night during the school year. If you have wet weather before a game, or if you have a really dry track, the lawns get torn up pretty quickly … and it’s a challenge to play on. “Said Oland.

The board unanimously endorsed the money transfer for the TJ High field and the start of the installment during a meeting last week. However, some members noted that justice concerns remained.

“I just want everyone to remember that we have enormous justice problems and … I would like to see if there is some way to speed up the last four schools to get artificial turf fields because I think that is one creates greater gaps between our schools, and ultimately we’re all on the same team, “said board member Sue Johnson.

Board member Brad Young said he would like the board to step up and commit to installing turf fields in the remaining schools within the next five years. Young also said he would like to find a way to help Middletown High School pay off the debt it incurred in installing the turf field in 2008. The field was funded entirely through donations and fundraisers and cost $ 800,000 to install mail reporting, according to previous news.

Board member Liz Barrett also referred to the system-wide equity concern. She said she would like the new TJ field at school level to be used fairly by other school groups and clubs besides athletics.

TJ High Principal Tracey Kibler tried to reassure Barrett that this would happen.

“You have 100 percent my guarantee that this will be an equitable, community collaboration space that is celebrated and available to everyone to have an opportunity to use,” she said.

Mike Chavez, TJ’s High Athletic Director, made a similar statement.

“It will absolutely be a field for the church,” he said.

Board chairman Jay Mason, a TJ graduate who played soccer in high school, is thrilled that the project is finally happening, but he wasn’t jealous.

“I wish it had been installed in 1990 so I could have played on it,” Mason said with a laugh.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

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