In an effort to seek public input on OPRF High School’s proposed pool and other capital improvements, the District 200 Board of Education will hold two community meetings on July 19 & 20. Details are listed on the school’s Pool Project webpage, tinyurl.com/zjvmkt8, and a comparison chart of the prevailing plans is also linked on the page. If you would like to voice your opinion on, or ask questions about, the pools and their respective plans, please attend one of these meetings.

According to Legat, the school’s architectural firm, all three of the pool plans meet OPRF’s aquatic needs. The board has assimilated each of the three pool plans into a distinct Long Term Facility Plan (LTFP). They range in price from $39.9 million to $64 million.

LTFP Option A features the pragmatic pool plan, the least expensive option, with a pool cost of $22.3 million. This plan consists of two pools, a new, 8-lane, 25-yard, standard-size, high school competition pool in the current East Pool/South Gym space and a new, 4-lane, 25-yard, warm-up pool in the current West Pool space.

Besides the pools, the most expensive line item in LTFP Option A is a $10.7 million, performing arts addition. It hikes the plan’s total price tag to $39.9 million. The board must articulate the need for this pricey addition and expenditure at the community meetings and to the voting public. The only explanation given thus far is a need for instrument storage.     

As far as community use of each of the proposed pool plans, LTFP Option A is the clear winner. It is the only one of the three plans that would actually increase community usage, and it would increase it by 25%, to 25 hours a week. LTFP Options B & C would both decrease community pool usage by 25%, to 15 hours a week.

LTFP Options B and C both feature expensive, 40-meter pools. Option B would demolish the existing garage. Built in 2003, we are still paying for the garage, and it has a serviceable life of at least 25 more years. Option B would then build a tall, narrow garage on the same site. This is not a “green” plan. Option B’s pool and plan cost $42.1 million and $52.3 million, respectively. 

Option C would build the pool underneath the West Field. Its high water table raises serious issues, including safety and increased annual operating costs. Option C’s pool and plan cost $50.3 million and $64 million, respectively.

There are many competing demands for our tax dollars. Accordingly, needs must be prioritized over wants. More than half of OPRF’s disadvantaged students are not proficient in reading and math, according to the Prairie State Achievement Examination. Improving student outcomes is a need. Addressing this need would raise OPRF’s ranking among high schools in Illinois, boosting D200’s desirability to homebuyers. A 40-meter, swimming pool remains simply a want. 

Considering all three plans, LTFP Option A is the clear choice for OPRF and the community.

Monica Sheehan is a member of OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions.

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