To the Editor:
The Nantucket Public Schools Campus Wide Master Plan is a multi-phased plan that has been in existence since 2013, when it was clear that the current athletic complex was in need of updates and improvements. With the increase in student enrollment at that time, these necessary improvements had to be put on hold so that the Nantucket Intermediate School could be built.
Now, after 9 years, the district is able to redirect its attention to planning and executing the next phase of the master plan that will set the stage for the future. Concentrating on the athletic improvements now, including moving and upgrading certain fields, replacing and updating the grandstand, adding a track, building tennis courts, and increasing staff parking, will fully support the ever-growing athletic programs and allow the schools to designate a specific area for a new school, if the need arises.
We are fully aware that there has been increasing concern around the Nantucket Public Schools athletic fields improvement project that is being proposed. The NPS Athletics Program is as robust as it has ever been, with approximately 72% of all high school students participating in fall, winter, or spring sports in 2019-20. Natural grass field use is limited and becomes unsafe if overused. Due to wear and tear of overuse during the last few years, the current athletic fields have sustained widespread damage. To solve this problem, Nantucket has looked at multiple options and has determined that the safest and most effective way to support the amount of athletic activity in our school district is to consider replacing two of the existing eight fields with synthetic turf fields. It is important that the community know the extensive amount of study and planning that has taken place around finding the safest possible solution to our dilemma.
We understand that a group of concerned citizens have been pushing back on this project around the chemical PFAS that is used in certain synthetic turf products and the fear that it can leach into the island’s drinking water. Although we understand some of their concerns, the materials we are proposing to use have been laboratory tested and proved to show no significant risks from PFAS. Most of our football, lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey student athletes have played on the synthetic turf fields on Nantucket (Delta and Nobadeer fields) and in most school districts off island.
Please know that we would NEVER create a situation where the health and safety of our student athletes, coaching staff, and general community could be compromised. For more information about the Campus Wide Master Plan, please visit the Nantucket Public Schools website (www.npsk.org).
We will also be organizing a School Committee workshop after the holidays where more information about PFAS and about the Campus Wide Master Plan athletic complex improvements can be discussed and shared. It is our steadfast commitment to remain completely transparent in sharing reliable scientific information about our project, always with the safety and well-being of our student athletes at the forefront.
The Nantucket Public Schools Campus Wide Master Plan Committee