PORTLAND, Oregon — Students are set to return to Portland Public Schools this week, but there’s still uncertainty about where some Grant High sports teams will play this season. The Grant Bowl artificial turf field is closed this coming school year for safety reasons, but officials are still working on a plan — and a timeline — to get it back open.
In the meantime, parents and athletes are frustrated with the system in the works to bus students to other fields for home games, and expressing concern about lost hours in the classroom.
“I mean, it’s just been chaos,” said Kim McGair, a parent of a Grant High School girls soccer player.
The school’s girls soccer team will travel seven miles to Delta Park for home games. Students said they’ve been told they’ll leave from school an hour early in order to get to the field in time.
“It’s just hard to build a community and like, school spirit around that when we don’t have a home field to play on,” said Paige Nakada, a soccer player for Grant High School.
The Grant Bowl turf field was installed in 2013 and had a life span of 8-10 years. Portland Parks and Recreation contracted an outside firm to test the safety of the field last year. The field was tested twice last year, failing both tests. Portland Parks then added more crumb rubber to improve cushioning, but in May of this year, the field failed a third test.
Portland Parks and Portland Public Schools will work together to develop cost estimates, a funding plan and timeline for the new field. But regardless of future plans, parents said the district should find a way to improve the Grant Bowl now, instead of busing students to other fields.
“We only have two spots now that are failing the test, and they are barely failing,” McGair said. “So, it’s not clear to me that there isn’t a repair available. And why can’t we use that money to repair it and get us through one more year until it can be replaced?”
Nakada said she believes her grades will suffer from more missed class time.
“I might fall behind in that class because I’m not going to be there for maybe the first two months,” she said. “Because a lot of our games fall on that same day, that same B day. So I’d be missing that class a lot.”
The field is still open to the public even though students can’t use it. Since 2014, Portland Parks has received $307,527 in Grant Bowl reservation fees. A spokesperson said those fees cannot be allocated to one specific fund such as fixing the field. Instead, the fees fund daily operations in the department and are used in the general fund.
“It’s not fair,” said Jamile Manning, another Grant High parent.