Relay for the Field: Overnight Campus Policies Spark Controversy


The next Relay for Life event will take place at Weston High School. Multiple factors, including expenses, prevented the relay from taking place at Staples. However, Staples may be considered as a venue in upcoming years.

The word “HOPE” is spelled out with glow sticks on bleachers beside the track. There are makeshift booths for everything from food to face painting for the participants running laps. Seven hundred twenty volunteers, including many Staples students, have signed up for Relay for Life, raising more than $100,000 for the American Cancer Society.

They plan to go all night.

Relay for Life events are sponsored by the American Cancer Society, and over four million people in more than 20 countries participate annually, raising more than $4.5 billion each year, according to the Relay for Life website.

The most recent relay happened, not at Staples, but at Weston High School.

Sarah Gutman ’13 and Marian DuBois ’13, co-presidents of the Staples club Relay for Life, wanted Staples to host the event next. Unfortunately, this won’t be happening. The event is already set to occur again at Weston in May.

One reason that Relay for Life isn’t held at Staples is because of the money the event organizers would have to pay. According to BOE policy, Relay for Life would have to pay for custodial workers, which starts at $17.17 per hour. According to Marjorie Cion, Director of Human Resources, there would be an additional surcharge for Major Use because more than 500 participants would be using school facilities. The cost of that surcharge can’t be known at this point, however. “It really depends,” said Assistant Superintendent for Business Nancy Harris.

In contrast, at Weston, the track and field are donated, so Relay for Life would not have to pay for the extra expenses that would be incurred were the relay at Staples, according to Justine Belport, a senior at Weston who helps organize the event.

Belport estimated that total expenses are somewhere in the range of $7-10,000 for everything from tents to tables, which is made up through donations and reimbursement from the American Cancer Society.

However, there might be changes coming to the BOE policy. Superintendent of Westport Public Schools Dr. Elliott Landon has prepared recommendations for the BOE to change policies in order to be made to allow for non-local groups to use school facilities and to increase rental rates for Westport-based groups that are not affiliated with the school.

The second reason that Relay for Life hasn’t been held at Staples in the past was because the field didn’t have lights. They tried to hold the event here in 2009, according to Athletic Director Marty Lisevick, using portable lights, but the zoning laws prevented it.

Now, though the field does have lights, the town’s agreement with neighbors of the field requires that the lights be shut off no later than10 p.m.Also, there are only eight events allowed to go that late each year, which have already been chosen for this year, according to Lisevick.

Lisevick did suggest that Relay for Life could surround the field with candles for the lighting, which would not violate the town agreement or any zoning laws.

But he added that, though Relay for Life would not be holding their event at Staples this year, there is one other event that may be the first overnight activity at Staples. It’s a fundraiser for pediatric cancer that he said will probably come around May. However, that’ll take place in the field house, so it will avoid the problems with the lights that have blocked Relay for Life.

The field house, though, wouldn’t work for Relay for Life. “Considering the event had around 720 participants last year, I doubt we would fit inside,” DuBois said.

However, DuBois thinks that it might still be possible for Relay for Life to be held at Staples in the following years, saying that, in 2009, they’d convinced the neighbors to allow the relay to happen.

“It’s not like Relay for Life is just for fun. It helps raise a lot of money for the American Cancer Society,” DuBois said.