WATSONVILLE — Should E.A. Hall Middle School replace its track and athletic field, a place so pockmarked with gopher holes that it is all but unusable by athletes?
Or should the school instead make much-needed upgrades and paint 16 of its aging classrooms?
Those questions will soon be asked of the Watsonville community, as Pajaro Valley Unified School District officials try to decide how to spend the $2.2 million left for the school from Measure L, a $150 million bond passed by voters in 2012.
The bond was created to fund construction, repair and maintenance projects throughout the district. For comprehensive language and projects under the bond, visit bit.ly/2Zd9TkB.
The E.A. Hall School Site Council will meet at the school Tuesday when anyone interested in the issue can speak on one of three options.
The first option would pay for upgrades, paint, tack board, new cabinets and shelving.
Option two would pay for a rubberized track and a natural sod field, while the third option would fund a more expensive synthetic turf field with no track.
Both projects were prioritized by the measure, but rising construction costs since its passage — about eight percent per year — have left the district with only enough money to pay for one of them, said PVUSD spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez.
Because voters approved Measure L when it listed both projects, any change must go through a process that begins with the school site council. The decision from that meeting will go for approval to the Measure L Bond Oversight Committee, and then for final approval by the PVUSD Board of Trustees, Jimenez said.
E.A. Hall PE teacher Greg Bjur said that playing sports at the school is extremely difficult, as runners must continually look at their feet to avoid tripping over mounds and holes left by pesky rodents.
“We get kids injured almost on a weekly basis,” Bjur said. “The gopher situation is extreme.”
Bjur said he wants whatever is best for the students, and acknowledged both sports and classrooms need attention. But he questioned why, after seven years, the district is considering redirecting the funds. He also said that he didn’t know the issue was going to be discussed until he saw the online announcement.
“I just think the money on the bond should go to what it was promised for,” he said.
E.A. Hall teacher Neil Cannon said that he has seen various improvements on the 80-year-old school over his nearly two decades there, but that many have been temporary fixes.
The school, Cannon said, needs repairs on its leaky roofs, warped wooden floors and sagging ceilings.
Cannon suggested that the money could be split between both projects.
“If there is a way to use the money for repairs on both fronts, that would be an option,” he said.
Willie Yahiro, who spent 24 years on the PVUSD Board of Trustees, has long been an advocate for athletics in the district and was instrumental in the long-awaited launch of construction of the field at Pajaro Valley High School.
He said he hopes the money will be spent on the school’s athletic field, which he said was placed into the bond language to fill a critical need.
“It was all based on safety, and it was in the final bond language,” Yahiro said.
Yahiro also predicted the issue will generate controversy as it works its way through the process.
“It’s going to be very heated because the people we promised to spend the money on the field are going to be upset about the change,” he said.
The E.A. Hall Middle School Site Council will meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the school’s auditorium at 201 Brewington Ave. Anyone who cannot come to the meeting but wants to make their voice heard can fill out a survey at bit.ly/2z9c4XB.