The new athletic field at Vashon High School will have set open hours for community access (Kent Phelan Photo).

The new athletic field at Vashon High School will have set open hours for community access (Kent Phelan Photo).

Public access to track and field to begin next week

Beginning Monday, Nov. 19, the new track and field at Vashon High School will be open to members of the community.

That public access, promised to the community before islanders voted on the school bond last year, has been slightly delayed as school and park district officials gathered input on when and how the public would like to use the facility. After a public meeting on Nov. 1 and a survey completed by 175 people, Superintendent Slade McSheehy said last week that the track and field will have set open hours: from 5 to 7:30 a.m. and 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.

“I want people on the field as soon as possible,” he added.

Earlier this year, Project Manager Brandy Fox said the track and field were expected to be open to the public at the end of October. At the time, the plan was to provide a key card to any community member who wanted access to the facility. Not everyone was pleased with that idea, however, and McSheehy said after he received some complaints, he decided to gather further input. About 20 people attended a public meeting on Nov. 1, conveying a range of opinions, and a survey distributed by both the school and park districts mirrored the feelings expressed at the meeting, McSheehy said. Eighty-six percent of survey respondents wanted open access and 14 percent wanted more restricted access for community members at large. The expected plan for the hours, which is subject to adjustments, is the result.

The facility will be closed to the public during school hours. Ten years ago, it was common to see community members walking on school tracks while school was in session, McSheehy said. But with the rise of school shootings and increased attention to security, there is less tolerance for that kind of access.

“We are really just responding to what is happening in our country today,” he said.

While the new facility is on school district property, the Vashon Park District controls its after-hours usage, just as it does with school district gyms and meeting spaces, through an interlocal agreement, often referred to as the “commons agreement.”

Community groups such as sports teams will schedule field use through the park district, but members of the public who want to use the new facility can simply show up during open hours. The door to the facility will open and close automatically at the set times.

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