School fields are available for play space when not in use, Santa Maria-Bonita School District Superintendent Luke Ontiveros told city officials Tuesday afternoon, and agreed that better communication on the issue was needed.

Ontiveros asked to speak at the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Commission meeting after reading in the Santa Maria Times last month about concerns the five-member body expressed about field access.

Last month, the Recreation and Parks Commission’s Sports Field Committee suggested the city work to build a better relationship with local districts as a stop-gap measure to address the need for more play space in the city.

“A problem we have all of the time is school cooperation and fencing. I think we need to work on that,” Recreation and Parks Commissioner Yleana Velasco said in September.

On Tuesday, Ontiveros reported that school fields are available when not in use by the school or another group.

“I’ve been here for about 15 months now and I hear this ongoing perception that we have these fences that don’t allow people to use the facilities. That is true during school program time, but the fields that are adjacent to the schools are unlocked,” Ontiveros said.

He added that historically, the district’s schools have always been available to groups and sports teams.

Ontiveros brought with him a list of groups that have reserved fields and other school spaces during the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 school year.

For the period of the 2016-17 school year, the Santa Maria-Bonita district saw more than 110 local groups reserve space across the district’s school inventory; of those 60 were sports teams.

So far during this school year, 10 local sports groups have reserved and used space at Santa Maria-Bonita School District schools.

“I don’t think it is the difficulty, it is the knowledge of,” Ontiveros said.

To use school space, according to Ontiveros, a person or organization must fill out an application at the desired school’s office.

“The characterization that principals have different rules is not accurate,” Ontiveros said.

Recreation and Parks Commission Chairwoman Laura Henderson suggested that the school post signs about what, when and how the public can access school grounds.

Recreation and Parks Department Director Alex Posada suggested that the city could post that information on its website and program publications also.

“We need to be more proactive when it comes to communication on both sides,” Ontiveros said.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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