We applaud the decision this week by the Washington School Board to upgrade the Washington High School outdoor athletic facility.

We agree with school officials that the improvements are long overdue.

The board approved a $2.3 million overhaul of the athletic/band complex Monday.

The upgrade includes a new synthetic turf field, spray on track and new lighting and bleachers and a host of other critical improvements.

If the work goes as scheduled, the Blue Jays will have a topnotch facility for its athletic teams and its band by next fall.

We say it’s about time the high school’s main athletic field projected the same image that the rest of the school district already enjoys — that of a progressive, first-class district.

The decision to spend this much money to upgrade a facility that primarily serves extracurricular activities will be scrutinized by the public especially when the district has other pressing needs.

But when you get to the point when a facility has fallen into such a state disrepair that it can no longer be used for its intended purpose because of safety concerns then it is time to take action.

It is indeed an embarrassment, as school officials acknowledge, when your athletic teams have to use other schools’ facilities because of safety concerns.

Clearly it was time to act.

Superintendent Lori VanLeer said the upgrade is also about restoring pride in the high school. We couldn’t agree more. Washington High School has a deep and rich tradition of athletic excellence. The school’s athletic facilities should reflect that tradition.

Some will question spending millions of taxpayer dollars on an artificial turf and other improvements at the sports complex while at a time when the district has other critical needs. We have already heard complaints that the athletic programs and the band only serve a portion of the students. The district needs to rethink its priorities.

We would argue that extracurricular activities like athletics and band are an important part of the high school experience and have a valuable role in education. Sports programs teach the values of cooperation and sportsmanship. But regardless, the district has an obligation to maintain its existing facilities.

School officials pointed out the passage of Question 1 of Prop R earlier this month allows the district to move forward with some of the other needs. Without its passage, it is likely that the athletic field work would have been deferred again. That would have been really unfortunate.

While we are disappointed that both questions didn’t pass, at least these much-needed improvements can go forward.

Our hope is the upgrade and other enhancements that flow from the passage of Prop 1 serves at the catalyst for more improvements in the future.