By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — School Committee President Paul Magliocchetti said it’s time for Haverhill High School to get out of the dark — literally.
Students on the tennis team often play until the edge of dusk because the tennis courts have no lights, Magliocchetti said. If the courts had lights, matches could be played under the lights, he said, and the public could use the courts in the evening.
And the rear of the building would have better security if lights were added to improve nighttime vision for the security staff, he said.
“The tennis team has been playing in the dark and I want to know if lights are going to be put in or not,” Magliocchetti said. “And I want to hear from high school security as to whether there is sufficient lighting for them to do their job.”
James Scully, school superintendent, said the additional lighting work will depend on available funding. He said he is aware of deficiencies in the high school’s outdoor lighting and is waiting for cost estimates to help determine how to pay for more lights. He said additional lighting, along with lights for the tennis courts, would allow for increased use of the school grounds for the public as well as benefit student athletes.
“In the past year, we’ve had a tremendous increase in the number of people who are accessing the high school during the evening hours,” Scully said. “We put lighting around the track so people in the community can walk around the fields and have some soft lighting for security reasons. This summer we would like to secure pricing to light the tennis courts so that the community can use them. My intention has been to make the facilities, like the track, accessible to the public so they can get the enjoyment out of them that students get in the day.”
The lack of outdoor lighting exists despite the $31 million renovation done to the school and its campus in recent years. School officials said besides the exterior lighting, they have a list of improvements to the school that will cost an estimated $1 million — even though the official renovation project has been completed.
Haverhill High Athletic Director Tom O’Brien said the school’s tennis program faces an unusual situation. He said the school has three new tennis courts, fewer than you’d find at most area high schools the Hillies play against. The tennis teams started practicing in March and began their season the first week of April.
“At this time of year where it gets dark, some matches do run into dusk and it would be very helpful to have lights,” O’Brien said.
He said matches played at the high school often run longer than expected because when playing against another school there are five individual matches. With just three courts, he has to juggle the playing schedule.
“We play three matches first and have to wait for two of them to finish in order to start the final two matches of the day,” O’Brien said.
He said the high schools the Hillie teams compete against have five courts, allowing matches to finish well before dark.
“More often that not, we do run into a darkness situation,” O’Brien said. “Having two additional courts would be better, but I think it may be more feasible to look at lighting instead of adding two courts. At least we can be sure we’ll get the matches in.
“It’s something we want to work on, although we don’t have any definite plans at this time,” he said about the desire to have lights installed. He said the high school’s three tennis courts were installed as part of the renovations. This is our third season on the new courts.’’
Scully said that some deficiencies with outdoor lighting at the high school have already been addressed.
“For example, where students and families enter the common areas, such as through the library or cafeteria in the evening hours, and the rear entrance to the gym, we already installed a number of outdoor lights,” Scully said. “The next phase is to look at the main entrance to the high school and gymnasium, which at night isn’t that well lit. We know we need to increase the lighting there and we want to do it in a fashion that doesn’t become offensive to the neighbors.
“We very mindful of the fact that these are things that need to get done,” he said. “We are going to continue to move forward using our money prudently and wisely to make the school safe, secure and more accessible to the community.”