Dozens demand artificial-turf fields during Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District meeting

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Four Nassau County districts have installed artificial-turf fields in the past year or will install them in the near future, including Freeport, Lynbrook, North Shore and Rockville Centre. The cost ranged from $1.5 million to more than $3 million per field.

Undeterred by the board’s past rejection of artificial-turf fields, about 70 residents attended the June 5 board meeting to express their support for replacing natural grass with artificial turf. Many wore red to signal their like-mindedness.

“It’s time for turf,” said Ellen Brach of Bellmore, a phys. ed. teacher, a mother of two sons who play football and lacrosse and the founder of the Facebook group called Bellmore Merrick Parents/Students in Favor of Turf Fields. “It’s time to put aside past animosities, personal agendas and try to move forward. It’s time to end the cycle of neglect, irresponsibility and failure.”

Most of the 14 people who spoke favored synthetic turf.

But Ross Shulman, a 2012 Kennedy High School graduate and former Herald student columnist who now attends Emory University, said he opposed the district’s spending money on new bleachers — the board approved replacing bleachers at Mepham for $96,000 on May 24 — or turf fields at a time when the 2013-14 district budget allocates no money for new instructional materials.

“I’m sure you can find parents and children from every part of the school community who want newer things for their respective programs,” Shulman said. “Clubs, drama, research, art, music — they all want new things, and they can all name things which are in need of replacement. The board is not hearing the entire community’s opinion. And I hope that a decision to replace the Mepham bleachers is not solely based on the voice of a few people, or else we will set a bad and costly precedent where groups come in with their own issues at every meeting and demand that they be fixed, despite it not being in the best interest of all the students.”

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