|The Annandale Atoms football team on the school's practice field.|
The AHS Athletic Booster Club set up a website for its turf field fundraising campaign and is seeking donations from local companies and organizations.
The proposal calls for turf fields to replace the grass fields in the football stadium and the practice field that is surrounded by a running track, with construction to start in summer 2014. If the fundraising deadline isn’t met, the project would be delayed, said Christine Adams, the parent of a freshman on the AHS Atoms football team.
Turf fields are preferable to grass fields because they are more resilient in bad weather, they offer a better, safer playing surface, and they are less costly to maintain.
Keith Sholders, assistant football coach for the Annandale Atoms, said, “you can get more usage from turf fields because they can be used for multiple sports, and they’re cost effective in the long run.”
Because the AHS football field was too wet to use at one point this season, Sholders said, the junior varsity football team had to play what was supposed to be a home game on a turf field at Lee High School. There have been other instances where the varsity team had to play a home game at a neutral school.
So far, attempts to get AHS students, parents, teachers, and alumni to contribute to the turf field fundraising effort haven’t been successful, Adams said.
The student fundraising effort called for students to make a donation based on their year of graduation, with members of the Class of 2014 giving $14, for example, and the class of 2017 contributing $17. Meanwhile, teachers who haven’t had a raise in a couple of years haven’t that eager to donate.
Only eight high schools in Fairfax County lack turf fields, including Annandale and JEB Stuart. Falls Church High School got two turf fields a few months ago. The school board has set a goal of having at least two turf fields at every high school.
Although schools that serve a wealthier population had been required to contribute a greater share of the cost of turf fields, meeting the $100,000 goal is a huge burden for AHS.
The difficulty stems in part from the lack of financial resources within the school community. Nearly 52 percent of AHS students are eligible for free or reduced-prices meals. The boundary change approved by the school board in 2011 to relieve overcrowding contributed to the imbalance by shifting some of the students from higher-income families to Woodson High School.
As a result, AHS was left with a larger proportion of non-native English speakers, students who can’t take part in sports or other extracurricular activities because they have to work or care for their siblings after school, and parents who can’t afford to contribute financially and don’t have time to volunteer.
Synthetic turf fields cost about $600,000 to $900,000. They are used by a wide range of community sports teams, as well as schools. The funding for school-based turf fields come from a variety of sources, with about half the cost generally borne by booster clubs and community sports leagues.
When the school board approved a contract for three turf fields at Oakton High School last spring, for example, the $1.9 million cost was covered by a variety of sources, including the school, the school’s booster club, two youth sports associations, the Park Authority, the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.