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New track among Mepham H.S. upgrades

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Mepham High School is receiving a facelift of sorts this summer as part of the district’s capital project referendum approved by residents in spring 2017.

The improvements include a renovated parking lot, brand new turf tennis courts, an entirely new track, as well as interior ceiling, flooring and door replacements. Demolition began on July 6, according to Director of School Facilities Jon Simpkins, and all the work with the exception of the track is expected to be completed by the end of August.

“We’re fully renovating the parking lot because it was cracked and deteriorated beyond repair,” Simpkins said. “We’re not adding anything, just replacing old asphalt with new asphalt.”

Kennedy High School and Calhoun High School underwent similar projects in 2018 and 2019, respectively, but neither track at either location needed a full replacement like Mepham’s, Simpkins noted. The track at Kennedy wasn’t in need of any repairs, and Calhoun’s track received a recoating.

Simpkins said he’s expecting Mepham’s track, which, like the others in the district, surrounds the football field, to be ready for use around the second week of September. Since it could no longer be repaired, all materials were removed down to the sub base. The new asphalt has to be in place for about a month before additional steps can be taken, Simpkins added.

“We’ve got our money’s worth out of all the tracks at the high schools and middle schools,” he said. “Rubberized materials have a long life.”

The same goes for the turf tennis courts, which Simpkins said should last a minimum of 12 years with very little maintenance involved. There are five courts located at Mepham. Prior to installing the turf, the existing court surface will have any cracks or unlevel spots filled.

“The turf for tennis is only about half an inch deep and filled with a fine granite, compared to the football turf, which is two and a half inches tall and filled with rubber crumbs,” Simpkins said.

The courts at Kennedy have been in place for two years and are a big hit. “I love the courts,” Lady Cougars varsity tennis coach Brian DeGaetano said. “They’re great for P.E. classes, as well. It’s a different type of game, but once you get used to the bounces, it’s great. Long term, they will hold up better than the traditional hard courts that continue to crack.”

Mepham’s interior work will likely be completed by the end of this week, Simpkins said. The improvements include new ceiling tiles in 10 classrooms and new flooring in seven of those 10.