Thursday evening, the school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School seems likely to vote to build a new swimming facility on existing athletic fields on the west side of the school’s campus. This vote has been years in coming and follows many more years when the existing pools at OPRF have been alternately shut down for health and plumbing code violations and have seen the diving apparatus removed as it no longer met state code. 

That OPRF needs a new pool has long been clear to us and we admire the lengthy and open process by which the school board and administration have brought us to this moment. The issue has been openly debated by any person or interest who wanted to voice a concern, the limited options have been vetted by architects, and the plan falls within a larger master plan that will improve the core facility for an anticipated enrollment jolt.

Inevitably, there are now a handful of people who want to forestall a decision, which they suggest has been hurried. Coming late to the discussion is not cause to question if the discussion took place, if it was fair, if it was open.

Others lamely suggest that a proper high school swimming facility is a perk for the special interest of swimmers and their parents. A pool is a perk only if an auditorium to perform a play or a concert is a luxury. It is a perk only if you object to an up-to-date digital editing studio, or the new turf for soccer and lacrosse, or space for sculpting or Spoken Word.

These are the features first-rate high schools, such as OPRF, provide to students to allow them the opportunities to connect and to thrive.

On the landlocked campus that is the reality of OPRF, any project of this size is going to be a disruption and a compromise. Every option is going to come with pros and cons. But the moment of decision must come. 

Now attention must turn to the cost. How hard and firm is the $35 million being discussed? Are there acceptable reductions that could shave genuine dollars from that total? And how should a school sitting on a boodle of our cash pay for this once-in-75 years investment. We have long advocated that all or most of this cost should be bonded out so that the entire cost does not fall to current taxpayers. That is simply unfair. 

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