By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School should fix up its current pools rather than spend millions of dollars more on a new facility, say some Oak Park residents.
A preliminary study of the nearly century-old east and west pools done by Legat Architects, the school's design firm, estimates it would cost $20 million to fix up both. But that fix-up still wouldn't solve other issues, say Legat and school officials, like the lack of safe diving space needed on the pool deck. That problem forced OPRF to suspend spring board diving in the east pool in 2012 after new federal and state safety regulations took affect that year.
Still, fixing up the current pools is still supported by some, though school officials have ruled out that possibility.
At the Aug. 19, special meeting concerning updated pool facility plans, nearly 20 people spoke during public comments. Most opposed building the facility on part of the baseball field, which was recommended by an ad hoc school board committee investigating possible sites. The price ranges for the three sites run around $34-$38 million.
Other speakers, including Gary Kaplan said the school should fix up the current pools.
"The pools are decrepit, fine, granted," he said. "That's unacceptable, but we also don't accept that for a fraction of the $35 million or more represented by each of the identified options that the current pools can't be rebuilt in their current location to acceptable standards."
But other speakers, even those opposed to building on particular sites, said the high school needs new, updated pools and visitor seating.
"I know that my children will not benefit from this pool but that's OK," said parent Dana Coleman, who has one student swimmer at OPRF and two former students who went through the program. "As our predecessors did in the 1920s our community needs to think about the future and build a lasting tradition at OPRF."
OPRF officials maintain that a new pool facility will improve the school's aquatics program. The proposed Olympic-sized pool will allow the current program to serve more students, officials said.
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