Clarinda School District officials are continuing to gather information regarding a potential improvement project for the football field at Clarinda High School.
At a meeting Wednesday, Dec. 11, the board heard presentations related to two options under consideration for the field -- replacing existing grass and soil with new sod, or installing some type of artificial turf.
“Really, the difference between a natural grass field and a synthetic field comes down to real estate and the amount of use the field will get,” said Casey Scheidel, a representative of a Des Moines-based company, Iowa Sports Turf Management.
He said grass fields “are cheaper to build, but they are also more expensive to maintain, with mowing, fertilizing, painting and so on. And natural grass fields can only do so much before they’re worn out.”
The higher initial cost for artificial turf should be viewed from a long-term perspective, Scheidel said, adding that, for some school districts, “it’s easier to spend $1 million all at once than spend $30,000 a year in maintenance. We find people making the decision from natural grass to synthetic for that reason.”
But he said installing new sod on the Clarinda field was still a choice that could be made, provided the district would be able to keep the field in acceptable condition. Maintenance services that might be beyond the district’s capability to perform could be contracted, he said.
Commenting on the condition of the current field, Scheidel described it as “beyond a state of repair. Not a lot has been done to it.”
Brian Launderville, a representative of Midwest Tennis and Track Co., which has an office in Denison, said maintenance of artificial turf primarily involves“sweeping, maybe weekly during periods of regular use, and ‘grooming’ every four to six weeks.” For the latter operation, special equipment is used to restore the consistency of the synthetic material.
Regardless of whether sod or turf is selected, excavation would be required at the current field to remove soil and grass.
Launderville said “dirt stabilization” would also be needed, along with the placement of rock.
The project, in addition, would need to include work to correct drainage problems that have contributed to unacceptable conditions on the present field.
Addressing another issue, board president Greg Jones noted “from a safety standpoint, a lot of studies say that sod is better than turf for injuries. I’ve heard that turf has changed, and it has changed the outcomes.”
Both Scheidel and Launderville said that testing to evaluate the “rebound” factor of artificial turf is required before athletes can use it -- a stipulation imposed to reduce injuries from concussive impacts when a player lands on the material.
Launderville said research has found “only about 10 percent of concussions are caused by helmet-to-surface contacts. Most are from helmet to helmet.”
In regard to longevity of sod or turf, Scheidel said “it depends on how much the field is used, and for what purpose.”
The durability of the field is an important concern for the Clarinda district, since the location is utilized not only for football team practices and games, but also as a site for band practices and for the field competition during the annual Southwest Iowa Band Jamboree.
Directors requested Scheidel and Launderville provide cost estimates for using sod or artificial turf so the district can gauge the financial aspects of the contemplated project
Also attending the meeting was Mike Murphy from Larson Engineering, based in Des Moines.
He said his firm does not do any actual construction work on field projects, but could offer supporting services.
Among them would be topographic and partial boundary surveying; geotechnical exploration; creation of schematic designs; design development; document preparation; implementation of bidding procedures; and project administration.
He noted any project with a cost exceeding $139,000 “must be put out for public bids.”
If the Clarinda district intends to have improvements made to the football field in time for the 2020 season, he said, “you need to start this as soon as possible.”
The recommended timetable would be to have bids out in February, returned by mid-March, reviewed in early April and then contracts awarded by the end of that month. Construction could then begin.
During the Dec. 11 meeting, directors received figures on the district’s student enrollment for the 2019-2020 term.
The certified enrollment was 991.6, up slightly from 990.72 the previous school year. In the 2017-2918 term, the figure was 979.38.
For the actual number of classroom students in the current term, the figure was 1,106, compared to 1,061 the year before, and 1,063 the year prior to that. Starting in the 2019 school year, some students from South Page have been attending selected classes in Clarinda.
The observable trend at present is that “overall numbers have been going up,” Jones said. “For the next three years, our outgoing classes are much smaller than our incoming classes.”
Also at the meeting, directors heard reports from high school student council members Kate Landhuis and Chase McAndrews on a leadership conference held in Des Moines in November.
At the event, the Clarinda council received a “meritorious distinction” award, and high school counselor Shannon Almelien was recognized as the “adviser of the year.”
In a related matter, the board gave approval for six student council members, plus Almelien, to attend the National Leadership Experience and Development (LEAD) Conference in Chicago Feb. 28-March 1, 2020.
The estimated cost for the trip is $2,674, and the students are planning fund-raising activities to defray the expense.
In other business, the board:
Approved an application for maximum modified supplemental aid through the state’s School Budget Review Committee (SBRC). Due to enrollment changes, the district can seek authority for $46,774 as modified supplemental funds.
Approved an early retirement package for district personnel, following current policy, as recommended by district administration. The vote was 4-1, with director Ann Meyer voting no.