The board voted unanimously to accept only the $67,615 needed to fund architectural design studies for the future fields, plus an extra 10 percent in case of unforeseen cost increases, for a total of $74,377.
The board will accept more money for construction and installation later in the year when estimates become available, Golton said.
The total cost should not exceed $3 million, he said.
The board bypassed its usual two-meeting discussion rule to accept the money in time to have fields installed for the next football season but added provisions about gathering community input to be sure its hasty acceptance would not override residents' concerns.
District staff must meet with the community to discuss environmentally sound construction practices, board members stipulated.
And the district must include neighborhood residents in future decisions about how to use the fields, they said.
The designs should be finished by January or February and construction of fields could begin in May, pending state approval, Golton said.
Installation should be complete by Aug. 15, in time for next fall's football season, he said.
The new fields will have many benefits, including reduced maintenance costs, greater use of the field year-round and increased safety, according to district officials and parents.
The synthetic fields will save water, fertilizer and labor needed to maintain natural lawns, Golton said.
The weather will no longer keep students from being active, he said.
"The youngsters that are in our physical-education classes, instead of not being able to use these fields during the rainy season after it rains, will be on those fields an hour after it stops," he said.
Free of mud or uneven gopher holes, synthetic turf is safer than grass, Bob Cramner-Brown, president of the Gunn Sports Boosters, said.
His son slipped in the mud of Gunn's natural-grass field last year while taking a kick, he said.
"You could hear the crack of his arm breaking from the other side of the field," he said.
The sudden offer of the donation last week caused school officials to rush to get it approved so fields could be ready by next fall, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.
"We don't know if unforeseen delays will arise during construction," he said.
"This project will bring our stadiums up to the standards of neighboring schools ... [and] there are students who plan to play football in the fall and who plan to use this field to play," Skelly said.
But board members were initially hesitant to hurriedly green-light the project.
The short timeline of approval meant many community members may be unaware of the turf fields, board President Camille Townsend said.
A handful turned out Tuesday to echo Townsend's concerns.
Southgate resident and Paly neighbor Jim McFall said non-school groups would likely want to use the fields when daytime classes and routine sports aren't occupying them.
"Turf by its nature facilitates increased use. That's why you put it in -- so you can use the field more," he said.
"Adult leagues are all over Palo Alto. Undoubtedly, they'll want to use this wonderful resource that's available 24/7," he said.
The noise from inevitable increased use would disturb neighbors, who have not yet been adequately informed by the district about the proposed construction, he said.
Residents who live near Gunn also voiced concerns about the sudden project.
Dirt and debris from eventual springtime construction would be a nuisance to residents if dumped on the Strawberry Hill area behind Gunn's current grass field, Barron Park resident Douglas Graham said.
"I'm concerned about the proposal to use the Strawberry Hill area for further dumping," he said. Earlier dumping of debris there means that "mud flows through neighboring properties after every heavy storm," he said.
Strawberry Hill is already terribly polluted and degraded from earlier dumping, Barron Park resident Winter Dellenbach said.
Rather than depositing displaced dirt on Strawberry Hill, the district could donate it to the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge to help reconstruct the site of the old Cargill plant in the Redwood City baylands, she said.
Or, "the environmentally reasonable thing would be to -- duh -- take it to the landfill. That's why it's called a landfill," she said.
Board members unanimously agreed that, between now and a February presentation of architectural designs, district officials must meet with community members -- including Gunn neighbors if materials were to be dumped on Strawberry Hill.
And the district must create a protocol for how to meet with the community every time a new group applies to use the turf fields, they said.
The provisions would allow concerns to be heard without derailing fund acceptance and discouraging future donors with a lengthy, belabored approval process, Board member Mandy Lowell said.
"We need to think about our friendliness to donors," she said.
"We should be standing up and cheering about this ... [rather than saying] 'We'll get back to you in a month,'" she said.
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