Walt Whitman High School’s synthetic field will undergo repairs after storms this week caused significant damage, according to school district officials.
On Tuesday evening, severe weather swept across the region, causing damage to some homes, trees and power lines. At Whitman in Bethesda, the storm’s heavy rainfall also caused the turf field to flood and its infill to rise to the surface and spread.
Pictures and video posted to social media by Safe Healthy Playing Fields, a group that advocates against the use of synthetic fields due to reported safety hazards and environmental impact, show large swaths of infill from the field covering the surrounding track.
MCPS spokesman Chris Cram wrote in an email Friday that the field’s vendor has been contacted to make repairs.
Whitman’s athletic director and MCPS facilities staff “both confirm that the severe nature of the storm the previous evening overwhelmed the field and the vendor had already been contacted to replace the infill,” Cram wrote. “That storm was significant and caused damage throughout the county.”
He did not say how long the field or track might be unusable or how long the repairs would take and also did not know if any other MCPS turf fields had similar problems from the storm.
The $1.3 million Whitman field has had several significant problems since its installation in 2018.
In November 2021, the field was closed for the remainder of the fall sports season as a “precautionary safety measure,” as some students raised concerns about its safety, noting it was slippery.
In February of this year, Whitman Principal Robert Dodd announced in a community message the field would undergo significant repairs after a review found “the turf system has failed and is not draining at the rate required to make the surface playable after a rain event.”
Repairs included replacing the infill with a “newer organic mixture” that “has produced exceptional results” at other fields.
“MCPS is pursuing this failure as a condition of warranty and is coordinating with the contractor and manufacturer to make appropriate repairs to restore the field to full compliance,” Dodd wrote in the message.
The field reopened with the new infill in April.
Synthetic turf fields have been the topic of passionate debate in Montgomery County for years.
Opponents have argued that the fields present more safety hazards than natural grass, and that they produce a significant amount of waste.
Proponents say the fields provide more high-quality surfaces, allow for year-round use and save water.
According to the MCPS website, 10 high schools, one middle school and two elementary schools have artificial turf fields.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org