The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta City School System is constructing on the new fencing around Valdosta Middle School. This new fencing project will surround the perimeter of the VMS track, located across the street from McKey Park.
For many years, the track at VMS has been used by the public, with little limitation. However, the school system has decided that this is not a safe practice and will be discontinuing public use during school hours once the fence is built. The track will no longer be open to the public Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
“If the public would like to come before the school day begins, after the school day ends or anytime on the weekends, we do not mind. However, when our school is in session, the new fencing will be closed and locked to make sure that our students are able to utilize the track for their physical education classes uninterrupted and safely,” said E. Martin Roesch, superintendent of Valdosta City Schools.
The new fencing project will cost $109,842.68. However, limiting the use during those hours should help cut costs on maintenance and resurfacing. The school system stated, "The more use the track gets, the more often we would need to resurface. Same goes for the field. That field gets extensive use, as does the VHS field. In return we have to re-sod more often. We have hired a turf management
company to tend to that field along with the fields at the high school in order to avoid having to re-sod. But it is the responsibility of the Valdosta Board of Education to maintain the fields and the tracks at the school facilities."
The school system requested funding assistance in the past from the City of Valdosta and from Parks and Recreation to maintain the track since it’s used so heavily by the public, but has not received any financial support.
The system also stated, "This really has nothing to do about resurfacing or maintaining the track. To us, this is about us protecting the students that we are expected to keep safe while they are with us on a daily basis. And that is why we are fencing the property."
Every day, the track at VMS is used by dozens of area residents, particularly during lunchtime. Several residents shared concerns about no longer being able to use the track during school hours.
John Venners, a student at Valdosta State University, was concerned about no longer being able to run outside. "I'd like to keep using it. I'm at VSU and I guess I could use the gym, but I prefer running outside and I don't like running on the city sidewalks."
Susan Buronczyk has been using the track since November of last year. She was not aware that the track was closing and was visibly concerned. "I don't want them to close it. I don't know what I'm going to do or where I am going to walk. I feel like this is the safest place for me to walk, because neighborhoods aren't very safe. I'll have to think of somewhere else to walk because I don't feel like getting up at 6 a.m. to come walk here before school," said Buronczyk.
The VMS fencing project should be complete by April 30.