District considers installing lights to high school football field

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The Princeton School District is considering installing permanent lights at the high school football field, only if school dismissal time is moved back to later in the day when athletes would have less natural light to practice safely.
The idea grew out of the district mulling starting and ending the day later – perhaps as late as 3:45 p.m. compared to the current 2:51 – to address concerns that PHS students are overworked and not getting enough sleep. That change, if the district goes ahead with it or some variation, would have implications for sports teams when it gets darker sooner in the fall. Lights would address that issue, although it is unclear if the district would look to have night games or limit the lights to practices only.
“The thing is, it’s not a plan yet, it’s only a proposal,” school board President Patrick Sullivan said Thursday. “And it’s a proposal that’s based on a contingency, which is if the schedule turns out to be a certain way, then a proposal would be made to the (school board’s) facilities committee, who would then consider that.”
At this stage, the district has not decided whether to change the schedule. That would be the first decision officials make before moving on to whether to pay for installing lights, the cost of which was not immediately available.
“And one of the things that we shouldn’t take as a given is that either the start time or the end time will end up being what’s proposed. I think we need to listen to the feedback of all the people who are impacted by it and act accordingly,” Sullivan said. “We certainly wouldn’t consider a light proposal before we have arrived at a schedule proposal that we all think makes sense.”
To hear from the public, the district sent to 600 households who live in the area of the field a letter to let them know what officials had in mind and invite them to a public meeting that was held Dec. 6. Officials said residents had aired quality-of-life concerns.
“They’re really concerned about the consequences of what comes with it, like the noise, the traffic, garbage,” board Vice President Dafna Kendal said Thursday.
Mayor Liz Lempert said Thursday that she could “not speak specifically” to a plan she has not seen.