Board weighs ‘Friday Night Light’ regulations
Published 12:05 pm, Sunday, July 3, 2016
DARIEN — Sometimes, one hour can be a game-changer.
As talks continued Tuesday about the installation of Darien High School’s “Friday Night Lights,” Superintendent of Schools Dan Brenner told the Board of Education he had reviewed the impact of turning off the lights at 7 p.m., rather than 8 p.m.
Brenner told the board he built a mock schedule to gauge the impact of turning off the lights an hour earlier as neighbors have asked.
According to Brenner, the Darien Junior Football League, which rents the field for evening practices, could lose out.
By counting the number of DJFL practice dates between Sept. 1 and Oct. 20, 2015 — there were 52 — and factoring in the schedules of boys and girls soccer, field hockey and football, each of which would be entitled to two games under the lights, Brenner said turning off the lights an hour early could result in five fewer practice dates for youth football this fall.
A loss of six additional games would be possible if Darien High teams were to continue playing into the postseason, bringing the number of practice dates down to 41. Using the same calculations, if the lights were turned off at 8 p.m., the number of practice dates would go back up to 51 with the same postseason conditions.
Some on the school board said that less usage might benefit the community, at least initially.
“I believe earlier is better. I understand that there will not be as much usage, but I think in the first year of having permanent lights, or in the first year or two, there is going to be a lot of give and take, especially from the neighbors and parents and people who are getting used to this,” board member Callie Sullivan said.
“I think coming in and having considerably more use, opening it up until 8 p.m., isn’t something I’m interested in doing right off the bat.”
Vice Chair Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross made the case for an 8 p.m. cut off, saying that a 5:30 p.m. game late in the season might not finish before dark, causing games to be cut short or causing potentially unsafe conditions.
“When we look at the guidelines, we have to make sure that we give enough time for the kids to get off the fields and to safely get out of the parking lot,” Hagerty-Ross said.
She added that DJFL still needs to come before the board to talk about field usage.
Brenner said after consulting with an engineer, it was determined an evergreen barrier to shield residents could be installed at a cost of about $20,000. The cost could be assumed in the Board of Education’s operating budget, or the board could ask the Darien Athletic Foundation for an additional donation to fund the project.
Breener was asked to come back with the “essence” of a completed Planning and Zoning application for board review at the July 28 meeting.