SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Lakeland school officials are finalizing a policy that would prohibit public use of district tracks and tennis courts during school hours and during sporting events.
Security and safety precautions were cited as reasons for the changes, said George Stone, superintendent of the Lakeland Central School District.
“We want the community to have access to our tracks and our tennis courts, but at the same time it’s been pointed out by every safety audit that we’ve had that during the school day or during school events, there should not be people from the public using these in terms of security,” Stone said. “And if you look at some of the activities such as a lacrosse game, with a ball traveling extremely fast, it’s a dangerous situation as well.”
Previously, residents using the facilities during those periods would be up to the discretion of a gym teacher or coach, which board of education member Carol Ann Dobson said wasn’t too effective.
“I think one of the issues is when we originally did it when people could use it, we had it that if they were asked to leave by a coach or the gym teacher that they would,” Dobson said. “And not everybody does. Not everybody does it cooperatively.”
Not everybody agreed with the policy, however. Board member Steve Korn said he recognized the safety and security concerns, but said a majority of the public is being punished because of a noncooperative minority of users.
“We have a 2 percent problem being applied to 98 percent of the people,” he said. “I always have problems with policies like that. I recognize the problem, but is this a case where we’re just over-reaching?”
The current “Public Use of School Facilities” policy was amended by a district committee and put to a vote at Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting. A majority of the board seemed to favor the policy, but it was voted down to clean up wording and to further discuss whether the public should be prohibited during athletic practices as well as games. The policy will be put to another vote at a later school board meeting.