If Loudoun’s public schools get a share of the county surplus, the School Board wants to purchase new buses, textbooks and an artificial turf field for Heritage High School, in that order.
At its meeting Tuesday, the board adopted a funding wish list to be sent over to county leaders, who have indicated they may give as much as $7.5 million in leftover funds from last fiscal year to the school system.
Two weeks ago, the School Board was split over whether to take artificial turf fields off the list of funding priorities to make room for new textbooks, to replace outdated books. “We have old textbooks. I don’t think math textbooks have been adopted since 2006 or 2005 and some standards are changed,” Cynthia Ambrose, assistant superintendent of instruction, told the board at its Oct. 11 meeting.
After that discussion, Superintendent Eric Williams returned to the board Tuesday to present a new list of staff recommendations. He reduced the request for new buses by half and nixed a $2 million request for technology infrastructure, both to make room for $1.5 million to purchase new textbooks and possibly other digital learning resources.
The list also requests $4.08 million to buy 34 new buses and $1.9 million to replace Heritage’s natural grass field with synthetic turf.
Darius Fraser, a student representative on the School Board, chimed in and questioned the board’s decision to spend so much money on a new athletic field.
School Board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian) challenged Fraser, who is in drama at Loudoun Valley, to imagine that every time it rains he could not rehearse or perform.
“Would it put your drama department at a disadvantage when you go to compete?” she said, noting that could ultimately hurt a student’s résumé and chance to win scholarships. She agreed that textbooks are important, but said a new field should not be considered a “fluff” item. “That is a distinct disadvantage when you’re one of four out of 15 that doesn’t have this benefit,” she said, referring to Dominion High School in her district.
Tom Marshall (Leesburg) also addressed Fraser and noted that his school, Loudoun Valley, has two brand new artificial turf fields. “Heritage High School in my district has none,” he added.
Dominion, Heritage, Briar Woods, and Freedom are the last Loudoun high schools still with natural grass athletic fields. Several members agreed that the board should continue to work with the Board of Supervisors toward installing new fields in the last four high schools that do not have artificial turf, ideally one a year.