Campus ‘beautification’ improvements, new field hockey site in the works

by Judy Stringer

April 11 school board meeting

The warming weather has many of us thinking about exterior projects. The same is true for Hudson City School District, which is exploring landscaping improvements across the campus and the prospect of a new field hockey site at Hudson High School, according to several presenters at the latest board meeting.

Chuck Schilling, construction and project coordinator for the district, called the landscaping improvement project a “district wide beautification plan.” It builds on grounds enhancements that began within the master facilities plan, he said, and will incorporate “no-mow” areas, such as meadows, so as not to increase the cost of routine maintenance.

“The project will be funded through private and outside contributions, not using district funds,” Schilling said. “And we will be relying on community volunteers. [We] will be targeting students, staff, parents, Scout organizations and many other service organizations.”

Schilling credited Hudson residents Dr. Mitchel Fromm and Curt Van Blarcum for the vision behind these grounds improvements. Fromm helped fund an exterior beautification project at East Woods in 2017, Schilling said, and he and Van Blarcum, a former city of Hudson arborist who more recently worked as Western Reserve Academy’s grounds director, collaborated with Schilling to identify 30 targeted improvements across the campus. Those improvements were further refined with input from district educators.

“I just feel that there’s a point now that we should be introducing a whole new way of doing conservation work on the campus that involves the students, the teachers, our staff and creates something that would be exemplary of how [a] school district can operate,” Van Blarcum said. “If you look at school campuses around the country, there’s a lot of generic campuses out there.”

He said a focus of the project is to make the campus more ecologically sound with additions like prairies and wetlands that improve local water sheds, decrease flooding issues and serve as biologically diverse “learning labs” to students.

According to Schilling, $30,000 in outside funding has been committed to the project to date, and the district hopes to secure a grant from the state of Ohio for a “substantial part” of the cost of an outdoor learning lab at Ellsworth Hills. Van Blarcum said that project entails incorporating a biologically diverse prairie near the school’s new wing that would otherwise be grass. 

“We could do better than that,” he said. “Why should the teachers have to listen to the mower, a weed eater and a blower once a week when we can have windows look out onto a prairie?”

The district is also in the planning stages of a new field hockey playing field, to be named Pat Laflin Field. Athletic Director Mike Chuppa said the original Laflin Field, named after a longtime field hockey coach at Hudson, was deconstructed to make way for the new middle school and parking areas. The replacement would be a multi-purpose, artificial turf surface that could accommodate a variety of athletic needs and be located adjacent to Hudson Memorial Stadium at the high school.

“We have 28 varsity programs. We have 59 subsequent teams from those 28 programs, and 40 of them need a place in the fall and in the spring,” Chuppa said. “We usually have a window between 3 and 7 [p.m.], sometimes 3 and 9, essentially two or three time slots a day, to try and find space for our teams to practice.”

The project would initially involve installation of the turf surface and a scoreboard with the later addition of stands and a press box.

“We’re certainly looking at a project that would span over a few years and [an] estimated cost between $1.5 and $2 million,” Chuppa said.

Hudson field hockey coach and former player Louise Knox said the rededication of Laflin Field is timely as June marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

“A field hockey grass field is very different from the soccer field, so the programs have been limited in practice,” she said. “Laflin field, as it was originally created, was rolled and cut specifically for field hockey.”

Knox added that there are only two other schools in the region that play field hockey on grass fields and playoff games cannot be played on grass.

Chuppa said the field would be primarily funded through private donations and fundraisers.

Winter sport highlights

In other meeting news, Chuppa outlined winter sports successes. Those include:

  • Junior bowler Brock Miller finished the season with a 221 average and bowled a 300 at Clutch Classic in Cuyahoga Falls.
  • The Hudson ice hockey team claimed the title in the Red Division of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League and was a runner up for the post-season Baron Cup.
  • Senior wrester Aidan McStay finished his Explorer career with 108 wins and fifth in the state tournament.
  • The gymnastics team qualified for the state tournament and ended up finishing fifth. Senior Ava Guistino placed fifth in the All Around. Senior Lindsay Havens set a new school record with a 9.6 on the balance beam. (Since then, Havens has bested the school’s pole vault record as well).
  • The boys swim and dive team placed 11th at the state meet. Sophomore Alex Gallagher took fifth in the 100 breast. Gallagher also broke a 17-year-old district record in the 100 breast.
  • The girls swim and dive team finished sixth in the state with a 400-free team that came in third and a 200-free that came in fifth. Senior Carrie Caniglia finished fourth in the 200 IM. ∞