CONCORD -- The Mt. Diablo school board got an earful about proposed field lights, a sound system and other improvements at Ygnacio Valley High, as folks made their cases for and against.

At a meeting Wednesday night several parents, students, school staff and alumni spoke enthusiastically about the positive impact the lights would have on the school, by allowing students to complete their classes and get after-school help without having to leave early for daytime practices and games.

But several neighbors spoke against the project, saying the school and district had kept them in the dark about it.

Some questioned why the lights and sound system could be used up to 170 days a year when other schools with night lights such as Northgate and Clayton Valley Charter High limit those events to 120 days a year or fewer. Others suggested the district should spend more money on academic support for students at the low-performing school instead of on a sports field.

Trustees expect to vote on the project's environmental report Aug. 28. Consultant David Clore of LSA Associates, who presented the report, said there would be no significant impacts to neighbors, as long as the district follows recommendations to mitigate them with construction restrictions and other measures.

Athletic Director Mark Tran said the upgrades are desperately needed to help students -- many of whom come from low-income families and are not native English speakers -- to achieve success.

"Sports keep our children connected to our community," he said.

Nearby resident Michael Miracle said the improvements were not included in a ballot measure approved by voters. "I think the ballot measure that we approved for spending money on the school district never included anything about stadium lights or sound systems," Miracle said. "It will impact the neighborhood."

Trustees asked staff to return with a report that addresses several questions raised by the neighbors.

"It certainly sounds as though we've fulfilled the legal obligation, but I think we, as a board and as a district, give consideration to: 'What's our standard for being a good neighbor, in terms of consultation, and where does that responsibility lie?" said Trustee Brian Lawrence. "From what we've heard, I have concerns about that."

Lawrence asked project manager Tim Cody to bring back information about why Ygnacio Valley is asking for field lights on 170 days, far more than other schools.

In other business, the board made several staff appointments, including Jose Espinoza as principal of Cambridge Elementary, Akilah Byrd and Christopher Beischel as vice principals of Mt. Diablo High, and Jane Abell as vice principal of Pleasant Hill Middle School.

Trustees also heard the district is saving $3 million a year on electricity due to solar projects and is receiving a little more than $3 million a year in solar credits. But, district resident John Ferrante said he has seen air conditioning running full blast in empty classrooms this summer and he urged the district to stop this.

MORE INFORMATION
Additional details about the meeting are available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 4000 or by visiting http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Aug. 14. The complete Environmental Impact Report is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 85612 or by visiting www.mdusd.org. Click on "YVHS Field Lighting Project."
To see video clips from the meeting, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education.