School Board Bars Use of Track in Prince William County, VA

03/21/2018 - 19:57

Source: RunFree.PWC

The Prince William County (Virginia) School Board has voted 4-3 against allowing runners and walkers to recreationally use a high school track for merely a few posted hours each weekend. At the same time, the board voted to spend more than $3 million in taxpayer funds to build two new artificial turf high school fields that the public also is prohibited from using.

Unlike most other jurisdictions in the Washington D.C. area and throughout the country that leave their high school tracks open to the general public on weeknights and weekends, Prince William County chains and locks all of them at the county’s 12 public high schools. Excuses have ranged from fears of vandalism to lack of funding to make repairs to damages that runners or walkers could cause.

The defeated motion, made at a school budget work session on March 14, would have unlocked a single mid-county H.S. track during a few hours on the weekends as a pilot program to see if the community could be trusted.

The decision locks out not only Prince William County families who face the burden of funding these facilities by sharing the largest local sales tax rate in the state and paying nearly $1 billion in total county taxes in fiscal year 2017, but also locks out county students themselves.

In neighboring Fairfax County, for example, student-athletes striving for athletic scholarships to college can regularly be seen working out individually or in small groups during the weekends at high school tracks and fields. Meanwhile senior citizens and others can be seen using the tracks for walking and other fitness activities.

Not so in Prince William County, which is home to the most expensive high school in Virginia history ($110 million Colgan H.S. opened in 2016). PWCS students are only permitted to use the tracks and fields during normal practice times for athletes, they’re locked out on weekends and all summer. Students not on athletic teams are restricted from using tracks outside of gym class.

RunFreePWC, which consists of individuals seeking recreational use of high school tracks during posted community hours, released the following statement after the vote:

“On the same night the school board voted to spend millions in taxpayer funds on artificial turf fields we can never use, they refused to open just a single high school track for merely a few hours each weekend.

“Taxes taken out of our family budgets pay for these facilities, yet we’re only permitted to look at them from the other side of a locked gate.

“If they want private fields and private tracks at our public high schools, then the principals and athletic directors should raise private funds to pay for them.

“This was a vote against taxpayers, senior citizens, health & fitness, and the safety of the students themselves, who they’re basically telling to go play in traffic on weekends.”

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