Constructing a new pool for Oak Park and River Forest High School will cost roughly $15 to 20 million, according to preliminary estimates from the high school.
A new pool is just one aspect of a major long-term facilities plan just released by the high school. As reported by Wednesday Journal in February, a school facility planning committee has been working on a master plan to renovate the 100-plus year-old campus. A separate school committee was looking into the two pools, both over 80 years old, outdated and well past their lifespan. The pool committee's work was folded into the overall facilities plan.
Both plans were released Monday. The plans are only drafts at this point and any dollar figures are only estimates, school officials' stress. There's also no timetable for starting any work, says Supt. Steven Isoye.
The D200 Finance Committee discussed the plans on Monday with the school's architectural firm, Legat Architects. The full D200 board will vet the plans at its regular meeting next Thursday. Isoye said the plans will also be vetted by the school's Finance Advisory Committee, which is currently investigating the proper use of the school's $100-plus million fund balance. Isoye said the administration is looking for feedback from the FAC and school board about the plans.
The pool plans offer a few options for the school, either building it indoors in some of the Field House space, or housing it in a newly-built outdoor facility just off campus. The outdoor facility would replace the tennis courts just north of the baseball field. The other option is to take some of the parking garage space along Lake and Scoville and build it there. The remaining portion of the garage would be redone with added levels.
The tennis courts would be relocated to an upper level in either pool structure.
The pools would have eight lanes for competitive swimming and bleacher seating, said Robert Wroble of Legat Architects.
The $15 to $20 million for the pool is a rough estimate, says Robert Zummallen, OPRF's director of buildings and grounds.
The school's east and west pools — used separately by boys and girls — have had ongoing maintenance issues, Zummallen says.
Both pools, in particular the west pool, have serious structural problems due to their age, Zummallen says, including a deteriorating under-deck in the west pool.
Both pools were renovated in summer 2010 but construction and permit problems delayed their opening until January 2011. After that initial renovation, the pools were still found to be leaking. After those repairs were done, state health inspectors finally OK'd their opening that January. Those problems resulted in the school firing its old architectural firm and hiring Legat.
A new indoor pool would replace both current pools. Another option for an outdoor facility would be building it just north of the football field, with the tennis courts and bleachers in an upper level. This option would also push the baseball field further north, taking up the current tennis court space.
The school's fund balance would likely help pay for the pool and overall campus renovations, Isoye said, although selling bonds or a referendum are also options.
The FAC will discuss those options at its Oct. 7, meeting.
A new classroom structure
The overall campus plan shows other significant changes to the main building. Two options are offered, but each call for relocating the Welcome Center further south on Scoville, closer to the Field House.
The current main entrance would become a second entry into the building's "student commons" area.
But the major renovation involves rethinking classroom space. One option calls for teachers to share classrooms, not including science labs which are already shared. In this option, instead of having their own classrooms, teachers would be located together in "faculty studios" on the second, third and fourth floors.
Wroble said the idea is to have teachers in one space collaborating together. There would also be "think tank" areas in the building for students to work in.
These renovations are estimated at around $40 million.
Higher enrollment in the coming years is a major driver behind rethinking space, school officials have said. Growing the large fund balance, officials said, was in large part due to facility needs coming down the road. Enrollment is steadily trending higher at OPRF, as well as elementary school District 97.
By 2016, enrollment is expected to reach roughly 6,000 kids in D97 — up from the current 5,500 — and nearly 3,500 students at OPRF; roughly 3,200 students are currently enrolled. Those estimates were done by the firm Ehlers and Associates, which both districts hired in 2011 to look at enrollment patterns.
D200 Finance Committee members offered their feedback about the proposed plans.
Jeff Weissglass, a newly-elected board member, wondered if the most pressing work, such as the pools, could be done now and other work put off due to the high costs.
"The other question for me is what can we do for half the price; should we do it all, should we go all the way, or what came be accomplished for much less?" Weissglass said.
Tom Cofsky, who was also elected in April, wanted to know how much enrollment factored into the plans. Veteran board member Ralph Lee said he thinks the pools are a driver behind much of the work, because addressing that issue will impact the rest of the building.
Zummallen warned that if something isn't done with the pools in the next three years or so, the state might shut them down due to safety concerns.
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