Field of Dreams?
By Alex Distefano
In 2001, Riverside voters approved Measure B, which allocated funding for Riverside Unified School District’s five high schools, including the campuses of Arlington, North, King, Ramona and Poly.
But a decade after Measure B’s funds have been allocated to improve and renovate these campuses, a group of concerned parents, educators and students at John W. North—located between downtown and UCR—are insisting that their school hasn’t gotten its fair share of money and has ended up last in line.
They claim that the campus is in dire need of many improvements, the most urgent being an upgrade to the athletic field and bleachers, which would serve as the facilities to host sporting events and graduation ceremonies. Currently, North home games are played at another campus.
Armando Gonzalez-Caban is the concerned parent of former North students and says that he is committed to helping the campus get the funding it needs; the improvements he says students deserve.
Gonzalez-Caban says that he and several other members of the community attended many school board meetings to voice their concern over what they are calling their fair share of the funding.
“The school board heard a report on the issue [during] the last meeting, and the conclusion was that there was enough funding for a full track and field stadium at North,” says Caban. “But we’ve been waiting a lot longer than any of the other schools, so we’re not going to give up on this issue.”
Francisco Sola is also voicing his support for North. Sola, whose children were also former students, says it is a case of underrepresentation.
“My daughter graduated from North, so I am a very concerned parent and member of this community.”
Sola says that slowly but surely others in the community—including North teachers and staff, students, other parents and administrators—fully support the request for immediate funding for North’s athletic field and other improvements.
“We just started a Facebook page, under the name Riverside North Equality, and need everyone in the community’s support,” Sola says.
“We also want everyone to understand [that] this project would not deviate funding from any of the other schools,” Sola says. “There should be no animosity. We want the other schools to improve, but North needs its fair share of the funding as well. We are involved because the decisions are [being made] about the underrepresented here in the community.”
North teacher Robert Michalka recently wrote an opinion piece (which ran in last week’s Press-Enterprise) in support of North funding. In the op-ed write-up, Michalka expressed concern over waiting for the much needed repairs and additions to begin in light of the fact that other campuses have at least seen some construction start. But not North.
“At John W. North High School, the fifth high school, we have watched and waited for significant upgrades and improvements to the campus,” wrote Michalka.
Michalka also clarified that he and other North supporters are not against other schools improving their facilities as well. “We are sincerely happy to see these changes for our fellow campuses . . . As always, the North community was patient; they are used to being last in line.”
And, like many others, Michalka echoes his frustration over dreaming and waiting for an improved athletic field, writing that “these dreams are still just that . . . despite the eloquent and logical cases made for a state-of-the-art track stadium . . . which could be used for assemblies, graduations, band competitions and more.”
“It is time to bring the school facilities, including its athletics infrastructure, in tandem with its great scholastic achievements,” according to an email sent out by North supporters. “It is time to bring John W. North to parity with all RUSD campuses.”
Listed in the e-mail were two immediate requests of the Riverside Unified School District:
1. Approve North’s request presented to them on Oct. 4, 2010 to increase the bleachers’ capacity in the track and field area to 3,400 seats, and provide for press box, competitive lighting and additional concession/restroom building.
2. Establish a committee, including community members, to discuss and determine the investments necessary to bring John W. North to full equivalency with all RUSD schools.