Four local high schools will have their outdoor tracks closed, as the public school board faces a $5-million price tag to repair the aging surfaces.
Students who spoke with CBC Windsor said they disagreed with the move.
"I got started through school running and if I didn't get started through running at school then I wouldn't be where I am today and have the opportunities that I have right now," said Andrew Raoux, a Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey, one of the schools affected.
"Its going to be millions of dollars to tear it down or millions of dollars to fix it and I feel as if you might as well keep infrastructure you have."
Andrew Raoux is a Grade 12 student at Massey and says he got many of the opportunities he currently has because of his school track program. (Dale Molnar/CBC)
The Greater Essex County District School Board recently opted to close and remove the old asphalt tracks at W.F. Herman, Belle River District, Honourable W.C. Kennedy Collegiate and Vincent Massey high schools and replace the tracks with grass.
"It's a health and safety issue first and foremost, why students can't use those tracks this year. We appreciate it's hard not to have those amenities available," said Shelley Armstrong, the board's superintendent of business.
The cost to remove the tracks will be about $2.2 million, compared to the estimated $5 million it would cost to repair the decaying tracks, according to a board report.
Shelley Armstrong is the superintendent of business at the Greater Essex County District School Board. (Dale Molnar/CBC)
Armstrong said they tracks have been an issue for years. They'll be closed for the 2023-24 school year as they pose a safety risk and removed at the end of the year, she said.
The board has a budget from the Ministry of Education for capital repairs and improvements, but she said that covers things like roofs, windows and program and curriculum equipment like science labs.
At the end of the day, with lots of aging school facilities and plenty of maintenance needed, there just isn't money left over, Armstrong said.
While she can't say why the tracks were allowed to deteriorate, Armstrong said tracks built today are generally done with community funding and made to regulation standard.
Students will go to tracks at other schools, include the University of Windsor.
Other recently installed tracks are not made of asphalt, but instead a rubberized surface that is actually a regulation standard.
Harry Lumley is a longtime football coach at Herman high school. He said the school's track was also closed last year, despite the school having an award-winning track team.
"We've always had a great track team. Now they can't even practice at our school. We got to go all the way out to Vista or to the University of Windsor to practice," Lumley said.
He added there isn't busing available — so parents have to drive students to practices at other tracks.
The track at W.F. Herman will be closed this year after the school board opted to replace the track with grass, citing high repair costs. (Dale Molnar/CBC)
Students said that travelling to another track was inconvenient at best, and some students wouldn't have the ability to travel. Other students said they were planning on sticking with track because of the scholarship opportunity it can provide.
"It also just takes away from the community in general because our gym class is used it, the STEPS (Skills to Enhance Personal Success) program used it, grade schools use it and a bunch of community members are using our track all the time," said Julia Scrarrow, a Grade 12 student at Massey.
"Without the track, we lose all that."