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Eastside school districts lock fields

In October, the Mercer Island School District announced that it would begin locking Islander Stadium for security reasons next year. Members of the public who wish to use the track and field must purchase a $5 key card to access the stadium.

The news stirred up protest from many Islanders, as stadium access has been open and free to all in the past. Yet, a locked stadium is actually the norm for many Eastside high schools. Issaquah, Newport, Interlake and Bellevue high schools all have required key access to their stadiums for years. And for a couple of schools, the price is four times or more as much.

Interlake charges the public a yearly fee of $20 for access to their school stadium. Each year, the locks are changed and new keys are issued. Bellevue has been charging $18 a year for more than a decade. Newport charges $15, while Issaquah charges $25 a year.

According to Gil James, the athletic director at Newport High School, “the only way the community can access the field is through the ‘jogger gate’ to use the track to jog.”

The rules of public access are the same at all of the Eastside high schools contacted: Visitors can use the track and field only when the facility is not being occupied by school sports teams. Mercer Island will also adopt this regulation once it locks Islander Stadium. The stadium will continue to be available for rent.

Representatives of the Eastside high schools said that few visitors complain about the restricted stadium access. Most understand that the issue is about security and student safety. And since the stadiums are district-owned, the rules set by administrators are widely accepted.

On the Mercer Island School District Web site, some particulars of the policy and its justification are detailed:

Key cards will be distributed to the community beginning in mid-winter at the administration building and will cost $5. Seniors over 65 will have the fee waived upon request. The site also says: “Our facilities are planned, built and maintained for the use of our students. We appreciate the Mercer Island community’s long-standing support of our schools and hope that users of district fields and facilities will understand our paramount need to provide and maintain a safe environment for our students, to protect the district from liability and to prolong the life of our facilities for student and community use.”

For more on access to Islander Stadium, visit the MISD Web site: www.misd.k12.wa.us.

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