Gainesville City Schools are asking people to help take care of school property as renovations wrap up before classes start.
At New Holland Core Knowledge Academy, maintenance crews recently placed sod on the playing field, and officials are telling nearby residents to keep off the grass. Although signs are posted, students continue to tote balls to the field and play.
“I love the fact that our community comes and plays on our field, and I would love New Holland to be thought of as a community school,” Principal Pam Wood said. “The community is as free and welcome here as the children are. However, it’s important right now to stay off the field while the crew is working on it.”
Sod takes about a month to form solid roots, and school officials hope the New Holland field will be ready when school starts.
“It’s not something you can lay down and let go,” Wood said. “It takes a lot of care, and we’re asking the community to help us take care of it while it is getting established.”
School board member Sammy Smith brought up the issue during Monday’s meeting and asked Wood to explain what was happening.
“All we’re trying to do is protect our investment,” said school board chairman David Syfan. “Community members should be warned and asked to leave until the sod takes root.”
Other board members agreed.
“It would only be temporary,” Maria Calkins said. “We have to stay off the sod, or the field will become a mud hole.”
The police department began including the school as a part of the patrol routine this week, and trespassers will be asked to leave. After an initial warning, repeat offenders could be charged with criminal trespassing.
“The chief sent out extra patrol notices, and I notified the investigators on my team that if they’re out and about checking on things, they should make sure to run anybody off,” Sgt. Shawn Welsh said. “We’ve always said we need a community area, but for now there’s a soccer complex where they can go play.”
Police will watch the area until school starts again Aug. 9, he said. Maintaining the sod is costly, and the school can’t pay to repair torn sod with the already tight budgets.
“It costs money to keep the grounds up, and they’re essentially breaking a law by trespassing,” Welsh said. “People also leave trash and empty bottles over there. We as police aren’t out there to take people to jail, but everyone needs to respect other people’s property, and that includes the schools.”