New lights, surface approved for South Mercer Playfields

The Mercer Island School Board has gratefully approved plans to resurface the athletic field at South Mercer Playfield.

City officials brought their proposal, complete with full funding plans, to the school board meeting last Thursday night. Approval from the school board was the last step before construction begins, likely this June, to be completed in September.

The city plans to replace the dusty surface with artificial turf, and also to replace the eight lights on the field with four lights that are better directed to the fields, reducing light pollution in the neighborhood.

The field is one of three lighted fields on the Island, offering 3,670 potential hours of use each year, but this year the field was scheduled for only 914 hours because it is in such poor condition, according to information provided by Curt Brees, operations manager for Parks and Rec, and Pete Mayer, assistant city manager and Parks and Rec director.

The cost of almost $1 million will be recovered through the fees different groups pay to use the field, according to Brees.

I’m grateful that my grandchildren will be playing on this new field,” said Pat Braman, a school board member. “I’m also glad to hear as someone who lives in that neighborhood that some of the lighting will be more focused. I think the new lighting will probably be a real benefit.”

The city operates the fields under an interlocal agreement between the city and school district. The district does not pay to use the fields.

The fields, built in 1985, were designed using a composite of sand, clay and rubber, but no longer function in the all-weather way they were designed to, according to background information provided by Brees and Mayer.

The total amount for the project, $976,000, will be funded by the Real Estate Excise Tax revenues, according to Mayer and Brees.

After the City Council approved the project and funding, the school board was asked to approve it under the terms of the interlocal agreement.

  • The School Board has approved two retirements and several leaves of absence for the 2007-2008 school year.

    Retiring are: English teacher Elaine Lotzkar of Mercer Island High School , paraprofessional Susan Barnes of Lakeridge Elementary School and bus driver James McDonald.

    Those taking leaves of absence are: Sarah Olson, Islander Middle School; Patri Collins, IMS; Rebecca Nord, Lakeridge; Carin Jacobson, Island Park; Donna Johnston, IMS; Kristen Smith, Lakeridge; and James Auld, IMS.

  • The board also approved an amendment to the Superintendent Cyndy Simms’ contract, extending the amount of time before the board will review Simms’ employment status to determine whether to offer an extended contract or allow it to expire.

    The change, for 2007 only, moves from Feb. 1 to April 19 the date at which the board will perform this review. According to district documents, this change is “due to the extraordinary weather and resulting school-related delays and interruptions.”

  • The school board held its annual retreat at the Seattle Harbor Club last week. The board spent hours examining its top priorities, considering the different groups it consulted throughout the last year and taking note of the community’s top priorities as demonstrated in the Community Forum held last fall.

    While a final list of priorities is expected at the school board meeting Feb. 15, among them are continuing a comprehensive curriculum review in social studies for grades kindergarten through five and conducting a similar review in science next year, and improving responsiveness to students’ differing needs.

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