Ballfield upgrades on deck for Toronto City Schools
TORONTO — The Toronto City Schools Board of Education moved forward Thursday with plans to install artificial turf at the school district’s baseball field and learned of students’ reactions to changes to their school routines brought on by the pandemic.
The board agreed to hire JTSA Sports, an architectural firm specializing in recreational facilities, to design upgrades to the ballfield and seek bids for the contractors to perform them.
The Burgettstown, Pa., firm will receive $11,700 for its services.
Prior to the meeting, James Sauer, a registered landscape architect with JTSA, presented to the group such choices as the height for turf in the infield and outfield and colors for the turf ranging from Vegas gold to clay crimson.
Board member Andy Reeves, who chairs the committee, said there also are plans to lay crushed brick along the perimeter of the outfield to address maintenance and drainage issues there.
Plans call for the work to begin in the near future and be completed this fall.
The project will be funded from $418,000 raised through the renewal of a five-year levy approved by voters in April.
Reeves said pending sufficient funding, money for the levy also is being eyed for artificial turf for the football field and new visitors’ stands there, among other improvements to athletic facilities.
In other business, Mark Ferrell, the school district’s athletic director, was asked about steps taken to reduce attendance, and potential spread of the coronavirus, at athletic events.
Ferrell said home and visitors’ seating at Clarke Hinkle Field has been marked to ensure safe distancing at today’s game against Edison High School, and just 414 tickets will be sold. Of them, three each will go to each player, band member and cheerleader participating with the remaining tickets to be divided among the visiting team members.
Ohio’s high school half-time programs have been limited to 10 minutes each, and Toronto and many other school districts have opted not to send their bands and cheerleaders to games that are away.
Ferrell said parents of band members will open the concession stand, with certain volunteers responsible for handling money and others serving food. Because all of the food will be prepackaged, only bottled drinks will be available.
Ferrell said he’s received many calls from fans upset about the limited tickets “but there’s not a lot we can do while complying with the recommendations for public health.”
He and others noted most of the football games and many of the school’s other athletic events are slated to be broadcast online through the NFHS network, for which there’s a $11 monthly fee, or cable or local television.
Superintendent Maureen Taggart said following a recent order from Gov. Mike DeWine allowing public dances, plans are in the works for a homecoming dance as well as the traditional crowning of a king and queen, though certain conditions must be maintained.
Betsy Jones, principal of Toronto Junior-Senior High School, and Annie Silverthorn, principal of Toronto Elementary School, reported on measures taken at their schools since students returned last week.
Jones said as students arrive, the temperature of each is taken by a computerized wrist reader that alerts staff immediately if any have a fever.
She said time spent at lockers are spaced apart, with students given 5 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon to gather the books and other things they need for each half of the day.
Jones added students have a transparent plastic divider they stand on their desks and tabletops at lunch.
Silverthorn said children at the elementary school like the dividers because they keep their pencils from rolling off their desks and have decorated them with stickers.
Asked about recess, she said the playground has been divided into zones where a specific number of children may play at a time. She added playthings such as hula hoops and jacks have been ordered for them to use, with teachers disinfecting them between recesses.
Silverthorn said she overheard a pupil say, “Wow, they’re taking this safety stuff seriously here.”
Taggart said the schools follow guidelines set by the Dayton Children’s Hospital when students display symptoms that may classify them as high- or low-risk of having the coronavirus.
Those with low-risk symptoms are sent home, where they are to remain for 24 hours, while those with high-risk symptoms must see a healthcare provider before returning, she said.
Taggart said the students have complied with the order to wear masks, though some have to be reminded occasionally to cover their noses as well as their mouths.
“A lot of the girls color coordinate their masks with their outfits. It’s become a new fashion trend,” she said.
“I think everybody is so glad to be back to some semblance of normalcy, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep it that way,” Taggart said.
Some parents have exercised the option of having their children remain home for online instruction, but a majority of students have returned to school.
Jones reported 315 students from the junior-senior high school are in the building, while 77 are enrolled in virtual learning from home for the first semester. At this time, parents of 29 of the virtual learners have signed them up for the entire year, she noted.
The board is slated to reconvene at 5 p.m. Sept. 8 for a hearing on a grievance arising from an unresolved issue from the board’s recent contract negotiations with service personnel and for its next regular meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 17.