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April 19, 2021

Watsonville High’s athletic field, track to be renovated

Site council still debating when project will start

WATSONVILLE—Watsonville High School’s site council recently voted to use Measure L funds to renovate its stadium’s deteriorating turf field and running track. But a start date is still to be determined after current student-athletes set to compete at the facilities starting next month raised concerns about losing out on their use for their senior seasons.

Senior Layla Ruiz, who holds several school records for the cross country and track programs, is one of those students in opposition to undergoing reconstruction at this time. She said she is not against the upgrades, but that she doesn’t want them done immediately because this year’s senior class has already had too much that’s been taken away.

“We’re going to be pushed out somewhere else when we’re already barely adjusting,” she said.

Principal Clara Fernandez and Vice-Principal Joseph Gregorio led Tuesday evening’s town hall meeting to discuss if they should begin construction now or wait until the summer.

The project will take about nine weeks to complete. Renovations to the turf field would cost $252,000. Funding for the track is separate.

The school site council will have a meeting on March 3 to determine the construction date and ideas for a possible new logo in the middle of the field. 

Fernandez said that she’s still waiting to hear the details about voting parity to ensure they’re following due process and that things are done in accordance.

She said the cost to repair the field will be less expensive now than if they wait later, leaving them with more money to do other projects or upgrades to the entire stadium, which could include the fencing, bleachers, bathrooms and press box. The school site council can vote on those projects in the spring if there are funds left over from Measure L, the voter-approved $150 million bond measure created to fund construction and repair projects throughout the district.

A majority of the public speakers—a mix of students and parents—were in favor of starting construction as soon as possible so that it would be ready for the upcoming school year.

The site council presented results from an online survey in which they got 570 responses. It showed that 73.7 percent were in favor of starting the project now. The opposition (26.3 percent) wanted the project to start in the summer after graduation, a decision that would likely push the completion date into the winter sports season.

“Based on the survey responses it indicates that most people want to move forward with it now,” Fernandez said.

Students will be impacted by either decision, she said, but they currently do not have students on campus, which is the reason she believes now is the best time to get started.

“If we wait until later then everybody is going to be impacted, every single athlete,” Fernandez said.

Watsonville High senior Denise Corrales, who is on the cross country, track and field and soccer teams, disagrees. She said she believes the decision will take away a chance for senior student-athletes to shine and gain needed athletic scholarship opportunities for their families who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is upsetting to hear but it seems that the school and faculty have already concluded on what they want to do, as per usual,” she said.

Gregorio told The Pajaronian that he understands the frustration and disappointment of the students who are opposed to the project getting built now.

“Whatever happens and whatever decision is made we’ll do the best for the students,” he said. 

Gregorio said the football team doesn’t have home games scheduled this season because they “owed” home games to opponents such as Santa Cruz, Pajaro Valley and Soquel high schools.

He said some teams competing in the compacted sports schedule will be without a home field, sending programs such as track and field to practice at Pajaro Valley High.

“I can say with full confidence that [Pajaro Valley High School is] going to bend over backward to accommodate us,” Gregorio said during the town hall meeting.

Ben Akiyama, former interim athletic director and physical education department chair, has been part of Watsonville High for the past 20 years. He said he was worried that if there’s a delay that it’ll impact 1,200 students the following school year.

He knows that construction projects never go as planned and nine weeks is a timeline that might not be met.

“Geiser Field used to be a little muddy mess for football and soccer, now we have this nice field and the upgrades are going to be awesome,” he said.

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