I am the proud parent of an OPRF water polo player. More than a few times, I have found myself discussing the issue of pool size and lane quantity when weighing the costs and benefits of the pool options before us. Many see the obvious benefit of trying to adopt the lowest-cost option, and they also point to the fact that it appears we are actually gaining pool space by increasing our East Pool by two lanes (6-8) while decreasing our West Pool by one lane (5-4).
Although this eight-lane East Pool would supply a facility to host swim, polo, and dive events (along with practice and education space), the loss of space in the West Pool poses a loss of utility and space for our water polo programs, even though there would be 12 lanes in total, rather than the current 11 lanes.
Currently, the girls JV and varsity practice in the East Pool, and the boys JV and varsity practice in the West Pool (before school and after school into the evening hours). Both teams host games at the East Pool, never in the West Pool, and never at the same time (for example, when the girls travel to Lyons for an away game, the boys often host a home game against the same team). The current East Pool, while adequate for competition, falls short of modern expectations in both width at six lanes and depth (standard polo pools are deep throughout, not just at one end).
The West Pool, even narrower than the East Pool, under plan #2 will be reduced to four lanes and will not be a deep pool, rendering it useless for team practice for anything short of lap swimming. And so, for all intents and purposes, plan #2 poses a serious threat to the quality, volume, and participation of our polo programs, which occur at the same time of year (unlike swimming, which staggers boys and girls). Currently both boys and girls each host about 35 athletes. I do not know, and have not heard or read what the school’s response to this problem would be, whether that means cutting athletes, cutting JV, practicing at extremely late hours, or actually eliminating a team, but the teams would suffer, as potentially would Synchronized Swimming and our feeder program(s).
Out of deference to the fine teachers, administrators, and coaches at our school, I am reluctant to pull them into this sometimes contentious conversation. It’s been my understanding, through this arduous process, that all staff at OPRF tread a very careful dance as decision-makers and ultimately voters make these complex decisions.
We have known for quite some time that there is no solution to this problem that does not involve compromise. I’m hopeful that the concessions the polo and other aquatic community make are not bigger than they already are, but this is a long-term discussion, and many people in our community are working hard to come to a long-term solution that will continue to make us proud of our fine neighbors, schools, buildings, and activities.
Each of the many extracurricular activities at our school has its merit, and it is with the many options of activities that students are able to find their place at such a large school.
Karen Steward-Nolan is a resident of Oak Park and a member of D200 Vote Yes Aquatics.