MVLA tiptoes toward stadium lights

Stadium lights are back on the table.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees took a cautious step toward illuminating the athletic fields at Los Altos High and Mountain View High at a study session last week.

The board decided to proceed with the first in a five-point plan laid out by Superintendent Jeff Harding: create a draft proposal for use of the lights with input from various stakeholders. Trustees agreed that they could see the benefits of stadium lights, but once they saw the proposal, they could decide to call off the installation of stadium lights, revise the draft proposal or move on to the next stages, considering the funding and environmental impact reports.

“It’s not the fastest way to move that forward, but it’s wise for us to dialogue with neighbors,” Harding said.

The careful steps followed a tense August meeting during which athletes and coaches pleaded for the lights, while neighbors expressed concerns about sound, light, crime and not being listened to by the district.

Last week’s meeting had a different tone – several neighbors said they’d been in communication with the district and were grateful that their voices were being heard. The main points remained the same, however: Some people want lights and some don’t.

Staff, students, neighbors weigh in

Mountain View High Principal Dave Grissom said the lights would help reduce lost instructional time. Currently athletes miss sixth and seventh periods often for games, but games could be pushed to later in the afternoon if the lights could come on when the sun goes down.

Mountain View High Band Director Jason Kneebone said the lights would help the marching band out, too – students could practice on the field in the evening rather than in the early morning.

Kneebone said he doesn’t see the marching band any differently than his other classes, but it’s a class that doesn’t get enough time in the classroom.

“They are our class; the football stadium just happens to be our classroom,” he said.

Michelle Noeth, athletic director for Los Altos High, said that with the increase in the school population, there has been an increase in the number of athletes at Los Altos High and Mountain View High, and they are crunched for practice and game time. She said the lights would relieve scheduling constraints, allowing more time on the field and greater flexibility.

Ryan Cambouris, a sophomore at Mountain View High, said he missed 15 classes during soccer season because the games all had to start and finish before dark.

“I felt extremely stressed out because I was either letting down myself, my lab partner, my teammates, my teacher or my coach,” he said.

Students also asked for the bonding experience of Friday night football games.

The neighbors in attendance voiced opinions ranging from not wanting any lights or public address system to wanting limits on their use. Neighbors worried about the noise of the public address system keeping young kids awake, the traffic night games would bring and the potential for a rowdy atmosphere in their quiet neighborhoods.

“The neighbors need to have a voice,” Heather Lattanzi said.

At the last meeting, Harding said an early estimate of the total cost to install stadium lights would be $800,000 for Mountain View High and $755,000 for Los Altos High.

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