GEHS Juniors Trent Cochran and Mia Tavkach were recognized for athletic achievements at the Nov. 13 USD 231 Board of Education meeting. Cochran has numerous accomplishments in track and is a finalist for Gatorade Runner of the year in Kansas. Tavkach was voted golf player of the year, is on the all state golf team and was state champion in her freshman and junior year. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz


Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
The main item of consideration for the USD 231 school board at the Nov 13 meeting was a proposal to convert five sports fields at GEHS to synthetic turf.
The football field already has turf. This proposal is for the varsity and junior varsity baseball, softball and soccer fields.
Pam Stranathan, superintendent began a presentation that included multiple speakers.
“We’ve moved this process pretty quick as to looking at what our options are, where the funding would come from, what that would look like to the fields and so now that’s what I bring to you all tonight,” said Stranathan.
Stranathan said most of the schools in the area are converting to turf. She mentioned the number of weather cancellations last year and said it doesn’t take a lot of rain to make the current fields unusable, which forces the school to forfeit games or rent facilities.
Several GEHS athletic staff members, including Eric Jones, varsity soccer coach and Joanne Calvin, varsity softball coach, described their experiences with weather problems.
Will Biggs, band director, said the 7 a.m. band practices were often cancelled due to rain the night before in past years, but since the football field was turfed that no longer happens.
“This year there were several times when the rain stopped at 6:45 and we’re on the field by 7 – and we’re able to use the field because it drains so well, and we’re not going to hurt the turf just because it’s a little damp,” said Biggs.
Bruce Kracl, director of operations, explained the bidding process they had gone through and said it allowed negotiations, which lowered original cost by 8.8 percent.
“We settled at a cost of $2.97 million dollars. We got the things that we wanted,” said Kracl. “We feel like we’ve got a real healthy project at a price that is affordable, and we feel very comfortable with.”
Jeremy McFadden, finance director, explained the funds will come from premiums from the 2016 $29.7 million bond fund.
“Those funds, when we sold the bonds, were put aside to address any overages, unexpected cost overruns at any of the projects – the advanced tech center, classroom expansion, etc. I’m happy to report, as we’re about 18 months out on those projects, that it looks like we’re not going to have to use the bond premium for any cost overruns,” he said.
“You have my assurance that this is more than sustainable, and I’m excited we’ve put our budget in a place where we can use that premium and address this need,” said McFadden.
Representatives of the proposed contractor, ATG Sports, gave a presentation showing the scope of the work and describing the benefits of turf. One of them said that turf is no longer an exorbitant extra but is now more status quo. They said the fields could be used the day after the installation process is completed.
After all the presentations and discussion, the USD 231 school board voted unanimously to approve the construction contract with ATG Ram Industries for $2.97 million to turf the soccer, varsity baseball, varsity softball, and junior varsity baseball and softball fields.