SAN DIEGO - "We want lights! We want lights!" That was the chant heard by hundreds of Point Loma High School students as they walked out of class in protest over the principal's decision to play this year's homecoming football game in the middle of the afternoon. Normally, the school brings in temporary lighting for the big game.
"It was getting to be such a political issue," said Principal Hans Becker, who told 10News he first consulted with the football coach and the team boosters before making the change. Becker said he did not want students to be put in the middle of an on-going battle with the school's neighbors, many of whom do not want permanent stadium lights to be installed.
"I want our homecoming to be special for Point Loma High School. I want it to be a positive day. I want everyone to be able to celebrate homecoming and not have to worry about the politics involved with it," said Becker.
Many neighbors say they are not opposed to the lighting as much as they are to the possibility that permanent lights will lead to the district allowing other groups to use the field all year long, creating constant traffic, noise and crime problems.
Some parents of Point Loma students, however, say they want their students to enjoy all the amenities kids at newer campuses have, like lighting.
"We just moved here from Texas and I'm a retired football coach, and in Texas, that would just be unheard of," said Mike Cruz, whose son, Andres was one of 40 teens arrested during the protest for walking off campus.
Cruz said he understands that Point Loma is densely populated and a lot of people live in the shadow of the stadium.
"It's a hard situation," he said, adding there is nothing like playing under Friday night lights.
Neighbors have been working with the San Diego Unified School District to try to develop a master plan for making improvements at Point Loma High that will not have an adverse impact on their daily lives. That plan should be complete by late November.
In the meantime, a neighborhood group called Pro Point Loma wrote a letter to the school principal that says they were "surprised and disappointed" that the homecoming game had been moved to the afternoon.
"Many of the PLHS alumni (or parents of alums) who were looking forward to this special annual event," the letter reads. "We are also disappointed to hear that some students and parents are blaming our organization for the time change," adding that they were totally unaware that the principal was even considering it.
The PLHS homecoming is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8. Becker says the switch may make it easier for students without transportation to enjoy the event.
"This could be the opportunity for them to actually attend a homecoming game which would be something really special for them to celebrate as well," he said.