CHESTERTON | The Duneland School Corp. Board approved plans to install a $780,000 synthetic turf field at Chesterton High School.
The board voted unanimously Monday to move ahead with the project to replace the natural grass football field in time for the 2011-12 school year.
Community supporters have $110,000 in the bank and another four organizations made commitments of $72,000 toward the project, Chesterton Athletic Director Garry Nallenweg told the board.
The board approved paying the balance of costs beyond community fundraising from the district's rainy day fund. That fund represents surpluses from other district funds over the years, particularly the capital projects fund, Superintendent Dirk Baer said.
No costs of the field project would come from the general operating fund nor trigger added taxes, Baer said. Paying for the project would not have an impact on teachers, programming or items such as utility payments, he said.
The new all-weather surface would increase programming for students, Baer said.
Nallenweg said switching from grass to the synthetic surface would allow annual field use to jump from 108 hours maximum to more than 700 hours. A lack of damage such as that sustained by a natural surface under normal use would result in the far greater use time, he said.
Other groups and activities could use the field in the hours before a football game, something that can't happen now, football coach John Snyder said.
In addition to football games and practices, the new field will accommodate boys and girls soccer matches, marching band, physical education classes and a number of community uses including Pop Warner football and Duneland Soccer Club matches.
Board member Mike Trout said the field would become a community asset.
If work is started by June 15, installation could be completed in time for the start of football season, said Jamie McDonald of synthetic turf manufacturer FieldTurf.
Also Monday, representatives of the Flora Richardson Foundation announced grants to allow Duneland fourth-graders to attend two-day environmental education programs at the Dunes Learning Center in the coming school year.
John Hayes, executive director of Dunes Learning Center, said the students would attend overnight "Frog in a Bog" sessions in seven or eight time slots early in the fall at the center within Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Richardson Foundation gift was worth about $30,000 to $40,000, Hayes said.