School board to vote on public access to school facilities

By Oliver Lazenby

The Blaine school district board of directors will vote on an update to a policy about public access to school facilities at its July 29 regular meeting.

The district’s “Use of School Facilities” policy governs how the community and outside groups can use sports fields, playgrounds, gymnasiums, theatres and other school district property.

The policy was last updated in 2004, and district staff is updating the language to reflect current practices and working to make the fees more clear and specific.

The district wants the public to be able to use school facilities as long as it doesn’t cost the school district money. A draft of the new policy states that the public is encouraged to use school facilities, but the district aims to “ensure that funds intended for education are not used for other purposes.”

The policy sets new rental rates for sports organizations and other groups that use school facilities. Rates vary by type of organization based on how directly those organizations support local kids and whether they charge money.

During the first reading of the policy, at a June 24 board meeting, board member Laura McKinney said she’d like to see clarification on how the process of applying to rent school facilities will work. Blaine superintendent Ron Spanjer said district staff would work to make that clear before the July board meeting.

The district began working on the update earlier this year by gathering public input. At a February 25 work session on the policy, community members expressed desire for more access to Pipeline Fields, the districts complex of sports fields on Pipeline Road east of Blaine. The recent draft policy mentions informal use of sports fields, but doesn’t specifically address Pipeline Fields.

“Because of the value of the district’s playing fields to the community’s total recreational opportunity, the fields may be used by all residents. The use must be appropriate and compatible with each play field and its surrounding area,” the draft policy states.

Though anyone can use Pipeline Fields when the gates are unlocked, the school district doesn’t want people there without supervision, Spanjer said. Often in spring, summer and fall, the gates are unlocked for school and recreational teams to use the fields, he said.

“There’s a lot of activity at Pipeline in spring and fall and we don’t turn people away,” he said. “To leave it open when no one is there – we don’t know how that would work.”

Unsupervised use at Pipeline Fields has led to costly damage in the past, Spanjer said. Unsupervised access to play structures, fields and courts on the H Street campus poses much less risk for vandalism and damage than unsupervised use at Pipeline Fields would, Spanjer said.

“It’s not that we don’t trust people in general, it’s just that one person with the wrong intent feeling like no one even knows they’re there could do a reasonable amount of damage,” he said.

The July 29 school board meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the district administrative office at 765 H Street in Blaine.

More information and the draft of the policy from the June 24 board meeting can be found at bit.ly/30pE9FH

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