Some on HCSD board remain wary of artificial turf

HUDSON–Eagle Scout honors, exterior stairs, memorial garden ideas and athletic fields highlighted the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, June 20.

Connor McCagg, a sophomore at Hudson High School, took the board, district officials and his family outside to look at the dugouts he had had constructed for the school baseball field. By leading this project to successful completion, Connor earned his Eagle Scout status, something only a small percentage of Boy Scouts achieve.

Each dugout has benches and a roof, sheltered by a chain-link fence. Building the dugouts took two years and required raising $8,700 and mustering 250 hours of volunteer labor. Fund raising required both collecting bottles and soliciting grants. Connor’s work crew included about 22 high school volunteers, including himself.

“When did you think of this to be your Eagle Scout project?” asked schools Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier.

“When I started playing baseball for this school,” Connor answered.

“What are you doing next?” asked April Prestipino, the district coordinator of school improvement.

26 16news Hudson Eagle Scout

Connor McCagg, a new Eagle Scout, stands with Hudson City School District Superintendent Maria Suttmeier in front of one of the two Hudson High School baseball field dugouts, which he and other volunteers constructed as his Eagle Scout project. Photo by Mike McCagg

Connor said he was pursuing advanced Eagle Scout goals and serving as an assistant scout master. He said his career goal is to teach elementary school or social studies.

One of his family members recalled that before tackling the dugout project, Connor put in several hours in other Boy Scout and Cub Scout projects.

Back in the building, on another topic, Dr. Suttmeier reported that 20-year-old exterior stairs behind Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School are “coming apart” and need replacing. “I can’t promise you that in 20 years, we won’t need to replace them again,” she said, adding that in the Northeast the weather takes its toll on concrete.

To reduce the chance of accidents caused by ice, the new stairs will have heating coil loops built in.

The board also continued a discussion from previous meetings on how to memorialize students who have died before graduation. Dr. Suttmeier spoke of the need to “acknowledge” these students appropriately, but she cautioned that hastily rushing into any one plan might end up “counterproductive.” One idea, she said, calls for a “memorial garden, a quiet space for

students to read and reflect.” A possible location is the courtyard surrounded by the high school building near its library. Dr. Suttmeier said her daughter works at a school in Chicago school that has library space where students may go outside and read quietly.

In addition to the initial visit to the baseball field, the board also addressed plans to rebuild the district’s football and track facilities, which had come up at a June 6 hearing.

“The public is under the impression that we will use artificial turf because we’re budgeted for it,” said Dr. Suttmeier. “But the board decides,” she said, “and whether to use artificial or natural turf must be decided soon, in order to send an application to the state. Therefore, before our July 6 meeting, we should have Weston & Sampson here again to discuss turf.” Weston & Sampson, the engineering firm involved in designing the field, provided the main speaker at the June 6 hearing.

Board member Linda Hopkins said Weston & Sampson’s presentation was “biased” toward artificial turf. In addition, a federal Environmental Protection Agency report on artificial turf is expected in about six months.

“It’s stress-inducing to have to decide this on the cusp of an EPA report,” said board member Sage Carter. “What if [we] vote for artificial turf and then the EPA report says it’s dangerous?”

Another issue about the new field was raised from the audience by Maija Reed of Hudson. “Keeping sun out of the spectators’ eyes is important. The orientation of the field is a serious concern. Maybe to afford it, we can sacrifice something like coloring the track.”

While the new track was being designed, Dr. Suttmeier said, the plan was to build facilities that would allow for track and field competition. “They never asked for eight lanes or a steeple chase,” she said. But the track coaches asked for those features at the June 6 hearing. The current track design calls for 6 lanes. The board decided to hold another hearing on the athletic fields July 5, at 5:30, before the reorganization meeting.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Suttmeier reported that:

• The Elks Club gave the Hudson High School Varsity Boys’ Basketball Team a trophy for being “community heroes.” This year the team was undefeated until the state semi-finals and drew the community “together” behind them. Dr. Suttmeier brought the trophy to the meeting

• The Bard College in High School program has accepted 14 seniors from Hudson High School and 4 from Germantown. The district expects to move the program to the former Coarc building Warren Street between Front and First Streets in September

• More special education students may get to graduate in the upcoming year because of state changes in graduation requirements for special education.

The Board’s annual reorganization meeting is Wednesday, July 6 at 6:30 p.m., after a 5:30 p.m. hearing on plans for the athletic field. The hearing and the meeting will take place in the Hudson High School library.

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