Three people — including two students and even a Capistrano Unified school board member — have fallen through the aging wooden bleachers at Capistrano Valley High School this year.
A parent group at the high school, which serves Mission Viejo and a heavily Latino pocket from San Juan Capistrano, has sent a letter demanding that the 35-year-old football stadium stands be replaced with newer, aluminum bleachers.
“How many more people need to fall through and/or be injured while navigating the stadium before CUSD will undertake meaningful and significant steps to appropriately repair and refurbish the stadium so that it is safe,” asked the board of the CVHS Foundation in an emailed letter to Superintendent Joe Farley this week.
A request for comment from Capistrano Unified officials went unanswered.
According to the foundation, a female student fell through the steps while running the stairs during an aerobics class in May. Then, when President Gary Pritchard went to inspect the bleachers, he fell through, too, the foundation wrote in its letter.
Another student fell through during a football game last month, the foundation’s letter says.
The mother of one of the students who fell through is demanding that the district pay for her child’s injuries. The school board is expected to approve the payment of $373.84 at its next meeting, Wednesday. An agenda item says repairs have been made.
However, according to the foundation, the district used lower-quality wood.
“CUSD changed the maintenance protocol regarding stadium repairs from using kiln-dried wood to less expensive wood that was not kiln-dried,” the Nov. 7 letter says.
The group is asking that the district switch back to sturdier wood in the interim but that for the long term it make a switch to aluminum bleachers, such as the ones recently installed at San Juan Hills High.
The district does have the money, the group asserts. There’s nearly $18 million in Mello-Roos taxes that can be used only for school construction projects.
The district spent $1.65 million installing San Juan Hills' bleachers, but that did not include the cost for the stands.
“A new stadium will not only be significantly safer, it will also cost much less to maintain, a true win-win solution,” the letter says. “In sum, there is no legitimate reason why the stadium should not be promptly replaced by CUSD.”