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updated: 8/27/2013 11:54 PM

Batavia school board, parents talk priorities

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Save the arts.

Save the trees.

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Save the taxpayers.

The Batavia school board spent almost two hours Tuesday listening to people plead with it.

Most were there to speak about the district's $13 million plan to revamp the athletic fields at Batavia High School, including installing artificial turf in the stadium and adding fields. In June the board added the plan to the capital improvements list for the district.

A new baseball field would go where the school's arboretum is, and that rankled many of the speakers.

Ann Drover detailed how Batavia became a Tree City USA. "What a sad commentary to allow such a reversal of stewardship for our Tree City, the city of trees," she said.

And former board member Ellen Hamilton recalled how the Class of 1970 donated a tree to the arboretum in memory of her son, a sophomore who died in 1968.

She and her husband also donated trees. "It was a wonderful way to honor an individual and give a lasting contribution to the community," she said.

The plan calls for putting trees elsewhere, either by moving them or installing new trees, and rededicating them.

Turf

Sylvia Keppel said field temperature on the artificial turf at Aurora Christian School rose to 142 degrees by noon Tuesday, as measured by an acquaintance. Others brought up the possibility of the field harboring bacteria that cause antibiotic-resistant skin infections.

Gerry Dempsey, chairman of property management and development firm Batavia Enterprises Inc., spoke against it, too.

"My first reaction was 'Wow, that's a lot of money.' In today's tight economy, I can't believe they would vote in favor of that. My eye tells me your facilities are in pretty good shape," he said.

Supporters described the value of sports to their children's educations, including teaching discipline and teamwork, and why there should be more fields.

School board President Cathy Dremel said that board members were willing to speak more with anyone about the issue.

"Nothing is physically planned. We have not budgeted any money or spent any this year. Our intent is to take this glacially slowly and really look at all of these," Dremel said. "It is only a vision."

The arts

Parents from H.C. Storm Elementary School again asked the board to reconsider the elimination of art and music rooms this school year.

The district says it needs the rooms for increased enrollment and the district's bilingual education program.

Then there's the new policy on extracurriculars at the high school. The district has divided activities including sports into seasons, and limited the amount any student can participate in each season.

Jackie Berry initially did not like it. Her son, now a freshman, had to decide in May whether to try out for the fall musical or play in the marching band. He chose the musical.

"As I was inputting his calendar to my calendar, I thought 'Wow, they knew what they were talking about,'" she said. "He could not devote himself 100 percent to both programs."

Rene Swidenbank said having all activities after school was good for her in terms of transportation, and for having family dinners and evening relaxation.

But Marcia Swift criticized the plan, saying she has a son who "is already bored out of his mind" because he can't do both the activities he wanted. She also said theater boosters were told three different things about the policy. And she doesn't mind driving him to an evening practice, she said.

"Our facilities are not being fully utilized," she said, noting the money spent to build the Batavia Fine Arts Center.

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