Over the past few weeks, the Rockville Centre Board of Education has discussed changing its lighting policy for South Side High School, spurred on by Trustee John O’Shea. As things stand now, we discourage any such change.
The current policy, O’Shea argues, is too restrictive. It prohibits the new lights on the SSHS field — which is being resurfaced this summer — from being used for night games. Under the policy, the lights can be on until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 9 on Friday. Games can’t start later than 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday or 5:30 on Fridays. The policy also prohibits night games on weekends.
These rules were adopted in 2007, to mollify nearby residents who were concerned about the light and noise that night games would bring. At that point the district was floating a bond to install new lights for the field, but the bond resolution failed. It wasn’t until a few months ago that a group of private citizens raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the lights and had them installed on the field.
It appears that the initial policy was more reactionary than well thought out, based on the complaints of a vocal minority, and it now denies the majority of Rockville Centre residents the pleasure of watching their teams play under the lights at night.
O’Shea argues that a 5:30 p.m. game starting time isn’t reasonable for many family members who want to support the high school teams, and he’s right. If the train station parking lots are any indication, most residents haven’t even gotten home from work by then.
But the school board made a promise to residents seven years ago. When confronted by some who claimed that the board would change the policy as soon as the school got the lights, the trustees at the time assured them that wouldn’t happen. So the board needs to stick to its word. If it changes the rules now, it will lose residents’ trust, which it needs more than anything else.
We’re sure that, once the new field is completed and games have been played under the lights, many more residents will be clamoring to have night games, like other area towns. But there needs to be communitywide support in order to avoid the likelihood that a board decision to change the policy would be seen as a betrayal, and met with an angry chorus of I-told-you-sos.