Other Voices: Shedding light on shared community interests

As superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, I sometimes struggle with difficult decisions. I consider all perspectives and opposing views, and seeking fair solutions on tough calls can keep me up at night. You have undoubtedly heard that the MVLA Board of Trustees is considering the installation of stadium lights at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools. The stadium lights discussion is one of those tough calls.

The majority of students, parents and band and sports boosters want stadium lights so that they can play or attend evening contests of football, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey and track, as well as marching band events. Lights also would liberate otherwise sunlight-dependent practice schedules, which are particularly restrictive for student activities in fall and winter months.

Many neighbors are worried that stadium lights would disrupt their otherwise tranquil homes with noise from the speaker system, increased traffic and bright lights. Several neighbors share streets or fence lines with our schools, so they are keenly aware of the effects of living by a busy campus.

Both groups have equally valid perspectives and legitimate concerns.

We are committed to understanding all points of view before a decision is made by the board of trustees. We are convening a task force to explore points of consensus and areas of divergent thinking. If the final decision is to move forward with stadium lights, we plan to draft a “good neighbor” policy to address neighbors’ concerns, including preserving use of our high school fields for our students only. Most important, we are partnering with our neighbors to investigate all the factors impacting our community. Research will be conducted on directional LED-style lights that reduce light spillage into the neighborhoods and PA systems that minimize the sound impact on the neighboring community.

I am personally committed to a fair and thorough evaluation of all impacts on our neighbors and students, knowing that the process of defining “good neighbor” guidelines may take months. In the end, the decision to vote “yea” or “nay” will be made by the MVLA trustees, who will have the benefit of community feedback and recommendations derived from the task force.

This year’s enrollment at both Los Altos and Mountain View high schools is at record highs. Enrollment is projected to continue to grow in the coming years. The recently passed Measure E bond will help us add classrooms and other student facilities, but with no new land, we cannot expand field space. Stadium lights would significantly expand practice and game times for our girls’ and boys’ athletic and marching band schedules. Costs for stadium lights could be borne by various possible sources, but not from Measure E proceeds.

We want to have more students engaged at school, as athletes, musicians or spectators. We also want to maintain the good relationship we have with our neighbors, many of whom have had children graduate from our schools. We will do our level best to balance these competing interests. We are a tight-knit community and we want to keep it that way.

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The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

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