The Carrollton City Schools Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday morning to purchase new turf for Trojan Field at a price of $175,000.
The decision came after about a year and a half of research and work by Assistant Superintendent Mike Sanders, who presented to the board graphic renderings of what the new field would look like.
The current field surface, installed five years ago, has begun breaking down, Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards said.
“By the third season of that new turf, we began to see some sort of green substance on our shoes and in our pant cuffs when we left the field,” Edwards said. “It seemed like it was breaking down.”
Sanders said he received a visit from the FieldTurf representative last month, who told him the field was not unsafe, but that it would soon become so spotty that it would be “unplayable.”
The board had three choices in its decision: doing nothing, letting the current turf run its course; replace the turf with the same model at no cost, with the warranty ending in three years; or replace the turf with a new type, costing $175,000 and renewing the eight-year warranty.
The board unanimously opted for the third choice, with installation of the new type of turf expected to take place sometime this summer in Grisham Stadium.
Edwards said the new product is “amazing quality” and is certain to last longer than the current surface.
As for paying for the turf, Sanders said FieldTurf was willing to work with the system to develop a payment plan.
“We are paying for the assurance that we will have it for eight more years,” Edwards said. “We are looking for different ways to pay for it.”
Edwards said one possible avenue would be to take money from different funds — schools, athletics, boosters, etc. — to pay for the expense.
The field is also used for several more activities than it once was, board members pointed out. It is used for football, soccer, physical education classes, Carrollton Parks and Recreation programs and track. The field will also be used for the upcoming lacrosse program.
Board Chairman Dr. James Pope called the decision a “no-brainer,” saying the board didn’t really have a choice.
“We either put the new turf in with a warranty or replace it with an all-new surface without our current warranty in a few years, which would cost us $500,000 or more,” Pope said.
Edwards agreed, saying, “We have to invest to save money on down the line — that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
The superintendent stressed that the consideration was “not a rash decision,” that it’s something he and Sanders had been looking into for some time.
During the work session, the board also approved a shift for the system’s alternative school.
The current program, New Horizons Alternative School, which started with 75 students several years ago, has shrunk to only 22 students, and Edwards approached the board in November about the possibility of contracting the service out to Ombudsman Educational Services.
“We’re serving only 25 percent of the number we had when it first started,” Edwards said. “We’re averaging 22 students attending classes for a half-day. At first, there were 75, and they went all day.”
Edwards assured the board that the program is still “very necessary” and that the switch to the Tennessee-based service will not injure the instruction the students have been receiving.
“It’s a testament to the staff that our numbers have decreased that drastically,” the superintendent said.
The program will give the system a savings of about $200,000 in the first few years, Sanders told the board. The same number of staff members will be needed for the new program.
Ombudsman will rent a facility — within close proximity to the system’s campus — and will retrofit the space so that it becomes a classroom setting.
Students will still be counted in the system’s full-time equivalent numbers and the program can be customized for a certain level of service, making it the right fit for the system’s students.
In other business, the board unanimously approved a switch from in-house substitute management to a contracted service.The system will enter into a contract with Kelly Education Staffing, a Michigan-based workforce solution company founded in 1946.
Edwards said the introduction of the service will reduce clerical responsibilities greatly, improving efficiency and cutting down on health insurance costs.
“Calling subs is a full-time job,” Edwards said. “And it’s one that is notorious for being difficult and demanding and stressful. You’re basically on-call from Sunday night to Friday morning. You get calls from 5 or 6 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night.”
Sanders further explained that the implementation will save costs by allowing the sub clerks in each of the schools to do other jobs that they’re also tasked with.
“We are not consolidating or eliminating any positions,” Sanders said.
The assistant superintendent also assured board members that substitutes who are already in the system will get first priority, with “new” subs brought in through Kelly Services having to rise through the ranks.
Each of the new recruits will go through a background check done by Kelly Services, with the school system having the ability to review and approve all background checks.
The board also approved a proposed draft of the 2013-2014 academic calendar, with a change to the fall break from the last proposed draft.
The board approved the original draft at its January meeting, which included the system’s fall break falling on Oct. 19-22.
The new proposed draft moved that break to Oct. 11-14, which will allow families to take advantage of the high school football team’s open game day on Oct. 11 and go out of town if they so choose.
The new proposed draft will be up for public review until the March board meeting, when it will be voted on by the board.