The surface at Effingham High School’s Klosterman Field may be replaced next summer if funding is found for new artificial turf and a new scoreboard.

Unit 40 Superintendent Mark Doan said at Monday’s board meeting that discussions were already underway to replace the grass with turf. He brought the concept to the attention of the board’s Facilities and Transportation Committee last week, following discussion with Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox.

“Once we found out this was being talked about, I asked Mr. Fox to go out and seek some options,” Doan said. “We had another discussion, gathered some information and had more discussion at the committee (meeting).”

Fox said that several different groups were looking forward to having some kind of turf field. For instance, the EHS Red Regiment marching band wants to practice in the same environment as their competition. Soccer teams also welcomed the proposal, as they wouldn’t have to practice in the baseball outfield. Doan noted that physical education classes, in addition to baseball and softball teams, would also have the opportunity to use the new field.

“It’s much more of a use, per se,” Doan said. “It (would) be so much more than a football field.”

Discussions with Byrne & Jones Construction, a turf installer based out of St. Louis, led to two potential options for the turf field: a “tufted” turf, which goes through a vacuum once and sticks straight out and a “woven” turf, which goes through a vacuum multiple times.

The tufted turf is considered cheaper, but with only a 10-year life span. The woven turf, favored by Fox, can last over 15 years in some cases. The woven turf was taken into account along with a shock pad similar to those used in NFL stadiums.

“If we’re going to do this, we need to do it right and protect our kids,” Fox said. “In both soccer (or) football, or whoever is out there, when they land on that turf, we need to give them the most impact (against injuries).”

Cost was the primary concern for board members learning about the project for the first time. Fox said that the combined turf project would cost just over $1 million, a sobering sum for many who were open to the project. Combined with the installation of a new scoreboard, the overall project would cost about $1.4 million . Board President Robin Klosterman said that she was concerned about the price tag, even though the name of her family is on the stadium.

“I understand the different advantages for the different groups that could benefit and utilize it,” Klosterman said. “But, personally, I heard a collective gasp from many teachers in the district at the thought that we might spend very much of $1.4 million of district money on an artificial turf field.”

Doan said the district might not have to cover the entire cost, with discussions likely to begin as to potential funding partnerships with the community at large.

“There needs to be outside financial support for this project to move forward,” Doan said. “Any funding commitments would need to be explored further prior to the final vote by the board.”

Board Member Desha Wear wondered exactly who would get priority for the field, whether it would be practicing football players or band members who were pitching for the new surface.

“I would be concerned about the schedule that would be created,” Wear said. “It’s a football field first, but the band can use it (and) soccer can use it. Other teams can use it for practices. There’s only so much time in the day, so who gets the priority?”

Board Vice President Jill Wendling hopes that faculty looking for additional academic upgrades for supplies and infrastructure don’t see the exploring of options for a turf field as a sign that they are being ignored.

“I really wouldn’t want one group to say ‘Well, we don’t have this, so they can’t have this.’ That’s not how it works. We need to work together. If something is lacking on this side of the coin, then we need to pick it up on both sides.”

Doan, Wendling and other officials made clear that the discussion Monday was only a preliminary move and that serious discussions will continue over the next 60 days. The superintendent said that the turf project itself would not have any impact on already allocated projects to upgrade facilities throughout the district.

“Part of the reason why I’ve never brought something like this in front of the board is, ‘What other projects do we have in this district that may not get done if we did this?’” Doan said. “Some people say, ‘You need to spend more money on supporting students.’ We have done that this year. We have hired math interventionists, counselors and social workers. We’re working on after school programs. We’ve done summer school programs and we’re continuing that. We’ve expanded the pre-K program.

“Our technology has grown in the last 12 months. We’ve improved ventilation in all our buildings. None of these endeavors would be negatively impacted by this project.”

Zach Roth can be reached at zach.roth@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at (217) 347-7151 ext. 132 or (217) 899-4338.

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