Tennis court project held for school tests

Reconstruction work will now start Oct. 16

By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Noisy construction and standardized testing don’t mix.

That was the conclusion of school and town officials, who agreed to delay work on tennis and basketball courts next to Williston Central School until students in classrooms closest to the site complete the tests.

The town had planned to tear up the worn courts’ surface this week. But then officials discovered that assessments in math, reading and writing required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act were scheduled for the same time. So the work will now begin Oct. 16.

“The timing is a little later than we’d like,” said Kevin Finnegan, director of the Williston Recreation Department. But he said school officials requested the work be delayed so students would not be disrupted by the noise of heavy trucks that will be used to tear up and cart away the existing asphalt.

The work will include reconstructing the surface of both the basketball and tennis courts on the western side of the school. A new foundation will be laid and asphalt will be poured.

In addition, new fencing and nets will be installed. The space between the two tennis courts will be increased to the standard 12 feet.

The resurfacing will occur in two phases, with the initial layer of asphalt laid this month and the final layer completed next spring. The process will allow the base layers to settle, said Public Works Director Neil Boyden. The courts should be ready for play by mid-May.

Finnegan said when he approached the district, he just wanted to make sure trucks did not affect school activities or cause parking and traffic problems. He did not realize construction would disrupt the tests.

Walter Nardelli, leader for the Williston School District, told Finnegan that he was specifically concerned about the classrooms closest to the construction site, Finnegan said.

Nardelli could not be reached for comment. But testing in those classrooms will apparently be completed before construction starts. The testing period runs until Oct. 24.

The project will cost $80,000, considerably more than the $55,000 originally budgeted. Boyden said savings on other projects in the capital budget will help fund the reconstruction.

The cracked tennis court surface has prompted complaints by players. The town has tried to patch the surface, but that was no longer a viable option.

Town officials had originally hoped to complete the work before school started, but they were unable to find a contractor to do the project that soon.

Finnegan said the late start is a blessing in disguise because the original schedule would have meant moving tennis classes organized by the Recreation Department and halting play at the courts by the town’s small but dedicated group of players.

“We were hoping to get it done earlier,” Finnegan said. “But doing it earlier would have taken the courts off line during prime tennis season.”