This story was corrected on Aug. 18, 2014. An explanation follows the story.
With the school year set to begin this month and many of the fall sports being contested outdoors, high school athletes at Montgomery County Public Schools will, perhaps, be able to participate at facilities superior to those in neighboring Prince George’s County. In some instances, private funding paved the way for those differences.
While a handful of MCPS high schools have transitioned from natural grass fields to artificial turf courtesy of the taxpayers, several schools have received upgrades that were largely privately-funded. Thomas S. Wootton High School has a turf field that cost $1.3 million, of which $900,000 was paid for by the Bethesda Soccer Club. Wootton parents raised another $200,000 and the taxpayers paid the remaining $200,000, according to Bethesda Soccer Club president Greg Dillon.
“It was amazing what the parent booster club could do,” Wootton soccer coach Keith Yanity said. “They probably campaigned for a year to raise the money. They did everything from holding fundraisers to literally going door-to-door. It’s certainly not something that every school or community can do.”
During the past three years, the Montgomery County Board of Education oversaw more than 100 projects that were privately funded, nearly 20 percent of which cost $10,000 or more. Damascus High School replaced its scoreboard at a cost of $110,000 and Winston Churchill got a new one for $80,000, with both schools generating the revenue through private donations and parent-teacher association fundraising efforts, according to the Montgomery County Board of Education President Phil Kauffman.
“Damascus parents and alumni have always been very passionate about their athletic programs, especially football,” Damascus High School Athletic Director Joe Doody said. “It probably wasn’t easy for them to raise the money, but they all had a goal in mind. You probably see that a lot more often at private schools where an alum just shows up one day and writes the school a check for a new field or new gym.”
Several other of the county’s public high schools also received private funds for athletic venue improvements over the last four years. While none of them compare to the $1.3 million turf field at Wootton, a handful of schools received roughly $200,000 in private funds to install or replace equipment for athletic events, according to Kauffman, after the board approved a total budget of $2.28 million for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Northwest High School Booster Club paid $40,000 for the school’s electronic scoreboard upgrade. Clarksburg’s booster club raised $30,000 to build new dugouts for the baseball and softball teams. Poolesville’s booster club ponied up $25,000 for a press box and storage shed. Seneca Valley purchased a new scoreboard for $22,000 thanks to its independent activity fund. Montgomery Blair’s booster club raised $17,500 to replace its stadium scoreboard.
All Maryland public schools can apply for grants through the Maryland State Department of Education. Each year over 50 companies and an equal number of family foundations/memorial funds provide grants and other sources of funding, according to the department’s website.
Correction: Northwest High School’s scoreboard was paid for by the Booster Club.