Proposed new CHS softball field would solve Title IX inequity

by Andrew Alonzo |

A three-year-old Title IX complaint filed against Claremont Unified School District is poised to be resolved by next school year if a softball site is constructed on the campus of Claremont High School, according to Kevin Ward, CUSD Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources.

In January 2020, former CHS softball booster president Rocio Herrera sent a letter to CUSD officials and the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights outlining inequities between the school’s baseball and softball programs.

Among the imbalances listed in Herrera’s letter was the fact that CHS’s varsity baseball team plays and bats at on-campus facilities while softball players must walk nearly a quarter-mile to Cahuilla Park for practice and play.

Other inequities include athletic trainers could be delayed in attending to injured players because of the distance from the school proper to the Cahuilla Park, and since the park has no locker rooms, the softball team has sometimes had no choice but to change clothes in its public restrooms.

The school district received a formal Title IX complaint from the USOCR in January 2020. A subsequent investigation was launched to determine further inequities in girls’ sports at CHS, but  only found shortcomings in its softball program, Ward said.

“The district made the decision to address the complaint and to address the issue we knew had been longstanding prior to the complaint about not having a varsity softball field,” Ward said.

Following the USOCR complaint, the CUSD Board of Education approved a April 15, 2021 resolution agreement that outlined a plan to implement a varsity softball field and facilities on the CHS campus by September 2023. School officials also agreed to supply USOCR with progress reports on September 2 of each year, which Ward said the district has been doing.

Following the resolution’s ratification, Lisa Shoemaker, CUSD’s former assistant superintendent, business services, inquired with PBK, a Rancho Cucamonga-based architectural firm, about potential construction plans and fees.

The architect said the project would cost between $2 and $3 million. Ward said CUSD will pool about $3 million from its general fund to cover the work.

According to Shoemaker’s June 2021 inquiry, the softball facility is likely to be situated on the south end of campus between the football and baseball fields. Initial plans see the stadium equipped with a leveled outfield and infield, storm drainage, a clubhouse, batting cages, an electronic scoreboard, covered dugouts, two bullpens, a water filling station, a vertical softball backstop, permanent outfield fencing, foul poles, a flagpole, freestanding bleachers, and stadium lighting, though Ward said the district would not install stadium lighting, due to the extra $1 million associated with that line item.

Shoemaker also inquired about incorporating appropriate access for handicapped spectators.

Since 2022, CUSD and the Division of the State Architect, the statewide entity that provides design and construction oversight for schools and state-owned or leased facilities, have been  communicating at length on the project.

“We just recently received notice that the project’s been completely approved,” Ward said, adding DSA’s approval came near the end of January. “What will happen next is … it will go to the school board for approval for bids for a developer to come in and complete the project.”

Estimated plans and timelines were presented to the CUSD Board of Education at its March 16 meeting.

“The board will be presented with a flyover computer rendering of the project with verbal details,” Ward said. Final plans won’t be fleshed out until after CUSD has an approved bid from a contractor.

It’s possible the board will choose a contractor at next week’s meeting. If so, the recommendation will be brought back to the board in April for a vote.

Once approved, construction could begin as soon as August, Ward said. The goal is to have the field ready for the 2024 season.

The stadium would accommodate both varsity and junior varsity softball teams. Should scheduling conflicts arise, freshman and junior varsity softball and baseball programs will continue to utilize Cahuilla Park for practices and games, upholding a longstanding agreement between CUSD and the City of Claremont.

Part of Herrera’s original complaint also spoke to existing conditions at Cahuilla Park’s public restroom.

“The girls … are forced to change in a two-stall, poorly lit bathroom, which is frequently occupied by transients and homeless people,” he wrote in January 2020. “There is urine on the floor and the doors do not lock. There is no lighting other than ambient light, therefore, when it gets dark the restroom is dark and unsafe.”

Claremont Public Information Officer Bevin Handel said CUSD and city officials have partnered on the Cahuilla Park restroom improvement project, which will include the demolition of the current bathrooms and new facilities built, with a target opening date of this summer.

The project will cost $519,700, according to Handel. This total includes $362,000 for the structures, $115,000 for utility, landscape, and hardscape, $6,500 for construction signage, fencing, and temporary restrooms, and $36,200 for contingencies.

Handel said CUSD will cover $175,000, and the city the remaining $344,700 using Measure A and park dedication funds.

The new facilities will have eight single use restrooms, lighting, a drinking fountain, and new walkways and adjacent landscaping.


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