Earlier sunset, later school start puts practice in the dark
By KEN BORSUK
Nov. 06, 2017
GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) — What has so far been a dream season for the Greenwich High School Cardinals football team could soon be plunged into darkness. Literally.
Parents say a lack of access to stadium lights will hinder what are considered to be critical upcoming practices.
Lights are installed at Cardinal Stadium, but there are limits on their use under an agreement made with a neighbor in 2003 when the lights were first installed.
The town is considering legal challenges against the agreement.
Parents say there is an urgent need for a solution given the changing of the clocks, which will bring on earlier sunsets, a challenge because the school day was pushed back an hour this year to give students a later start time.
"We want some action ... for the town to find out what the plan is for our kids when they have to practice in the dark," Mary Ann Charles, the parent of a GHS football player, said this week.
GHS parent and longtime football program supporter Tom Waurishuk, who was a vocal opponent of the school start time change, said the issue should have been addressed a long time ago. The vote to change the school start time was made in 2016, well before the start of the current school year, he said.
An attorney, Charles said she and a large group of GHS parents had hoped town officials would have taken action to seek a temporary stay on the agreement with the neighbor, Bill Effros, until Dec. 15, allowing the lights to be used for football practice.
"I have zero confidence that is going to happen," Charles said.
The school board late last month voted to instruct legal counsel to prepare for legal action to ease the court restrictions on the lights. But their decision required new votes by the school board and the Board of Selectmen to authorize litigation going forward.
A proposal is being advanced by the school district to place temporary lights at Central Middle School. But approval is needed from the Planning and Zoning Commission. It is on the commission's agenda Tuesday, but there is no guarantee that board will decide on the matter then.
Some have said the middle school is not an option because the field is in poor condition due to flooding problems and is not safe to practice on.
Frustration grew among parents after one of the town's private schools recently held a night football game, seemingly without any complications. On Oct. 26, Greenwich Country Day held a "Friday Night Lights" event at which it "wheeled in lights" and held a night football game, according to the school website.
The site called the game an inaugural event that is "sure to become an annual tradition."
"I'm not saying this to make it like it's the private schools versus the public schools," Waurishuk said. "I'm not upset that Greenwich Country Day was able to do this. But they went and did it and no one put up a stink and the town has to go through the municipal improvement process with zoning. It's not right."
But the situations are different, town Director of Zoning Katie DeLuca said Friday, noting that Country Day is on private property on Old Church Road.
"GCDS has done nothing untoward and has followed all rules and regulations," DeLuca said. "They inquired with Planning and Zoning staff as to whether or not an application would be required for their one-day special event. Per Section 6-13 of our zoning regulations, we instructed them 'no.' They then proceeded to the Building Department for an electrical permit, which they obtained for the lights."
For the high school to use publicly owned property to bring in lights, DeLuca said a municipal improvement designation would be needed.
"The difference between GCDS and CMS is duration of time and public versus private property," DeLuca said.
Superintendent of Schools Jill Gildea issued a stratement Friday that included options school officials are exploring.
"The GHS athletic director continues working with several options for practices during these upcoming weeks, and players and families are informed as those plans are finalized," Gildea said. "While we all concur that a lit turf field makes the most sense for practices and games, we recognize that this is a limitation during fall 2017. During this time of the season you may see that practices may be added on weekends, practices may be shortened, which is typical later in the season, there may be potential off-site locations for one or two days per week, or indoor training activities on certain dates."
Information from: Greenwich Time, http://www.greenwichtime.com