A $350,000 project to put lights on athletic fields at Scituate High School is being delayed as town officials wait to figure out the direction for a new middle school.
According to Superintendent John McCarthy, plans were underway to begin a large-scale project that would eventually bring lights to the junior varsity baseball field, the JV football field, the back soccer/lacrosse field, and the skate park.
Though the money, entirely paid for by Community Preservation Committee funding, was approved at Scituate Town Meeting in April, officials have decided to hold off, mainly because the plans could complicate the evolving middle school project.
“The only concern that I have with that is what if the recommendation is to build a new school back there [where we would be installing the lights]. Then all of that has to be moved,” McCarthy said. “And you won’t get reimbursement for that, you end up wasting all that money. The prudent thing would be to wait until we know exactly what’s going to happen with [the existing middle school], what the plan is. Once that is set, we can move forward with the lights.”
Town officials have been discussing what to do with the crumbling and aging Gates Middle School for years, and have hopes to rebuild a new school at the site of the existing Town Hall.
The switch is part of the master plan, developed by selectmen, which would also see the current Middle School renovated into a new Town Hall. The Police Station, situated on land shared by the current Town Hall, will be moved to a new location along with the Fire Department.
The first step in all of that will start with the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The town is hoping to partner with the state entity to help pay for a new school, and is waiting to be invited in to the program.
That invitation will hopefully come in June, McCarthy said. After that, the town can begin a feasibility study, already funded through a Special Town Meeting, that will look at the existing Middle School’s problems and parce out viable solutions.
Because one of those options might be the field construction space, McCarthy has suggested the town wait on the project. Most likely, the town will have a concrete direction within the year.
“It will delay it a little bit, but not a lot, and it makes a lot of sense to do these things in the right order,” McCarthy said.
The project is the second part of a process begun by the Reidy Foundation and Scituate Little League, who fundraised upwards of $200,000 to bring lights to the High School Varsity baseball field.
The Varsity field plans, underway since December, will continue, as those fields are not where a new middle school might possibly be built.
“That’s adjacent to the football field, which is already a turf field with lights,” McCarthy said. “The baseball field is right next to that. That again, chances are it won’t be interfered with in any kind of building project.”
If some of the fields were to be taken away to build a new school, McCarthy said the town would re-build those fields on another piece of that land.
“The question is, is that a spot the school would need to be located? That would take playing fields away, and you’d have to build them in another location … that wouldn’t be a problem. But until we know the plan on where the school would go, it’s better that we wait. If we have lights there, it’s only going to complicate things. It eliminates a place you could possibly put a school,” McCarthy said.