Hidden Assumptions: We’ve wrangled over the OPRF pool issue for years. Throughout, there has been one matter that has been glossed over, with hidden assumptions. How much capacity do we really need? When the existing two pools (Boys and Girls) were completed in 1928, why wasn’t there just one? Other districts built one pool, and had the two genders use it different months of the year. 

Some History/Past Policy Decisions: Most districts built one 25-yard pool of typically six lanes. That will likely remain the standard for state sports competition because most districts cannot afford anything more. Girls and Boys swimming and diving teams compete in alternate seasons, so there is no overlap in pool demand and usage. Because we had two pools, and pools are the most expensive capital asset in PE/sports, “aquatics” are taken twice in a student’s PE career, presumably to use and justify the expensive pools. No other PE activity is repeated. When we can now rethink things from scratch, why are we lock-step repeating that practice?

Actual Needs: Is the Tail Wagging the Dog? We now have 11 lanes total. To fill that pool space, OPRF requires two sessions of “aquatics.” To fill the proposed capacity of 17 lanes, will students have to take three sessions of PE aquatics? We could reasonably and responsibly get by with less capacity than now. Stevenson High School (in Lincolnshire), the only public school in the state with a 50-meter pool, does not require that all students take swimming. Instead, freshmen take a water safety class. In the class they take the Red Cross Swim Test, and if they pass Level Two, “basic skills,” they can opt out of swimming. Students who don’t pass Level Two are required to take one session of swimming that ranges from 3-6 weeks. That’s it. So what’s driving the OPRF swimming requirement of two full sessions or more?

It’s the Pool Lobby: Even though high school competitions will always be held in a 25-yard pool, the pool lobby is pushing for what we call “a Mercedes pool” for its children’s practices, particularly water polo, where boys’ and girls’ seasons run concurrently. For the convenience of a few, should we spend another $15 million on a pool project? There were only 63 water polo players on the OPRF team last year (based on a Freedom of Information Act reply).

The Answer: As an alternative, the OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions people have promoted a plan, drawn up by the school’s own architects, which provides two pools with 12 lanes, a water-polo compliant deep pool, a beginners’ water safety pool, and deep diving restored.

This has always been about priorities at OPRF. I’m a Class of ’66 Huskie. Vote NO in NOvember, then demand a realistic, shovel-ready alternative: The Pragmatic Pool Plan.

Kevin Peppard was treasurer of the OPRF Referendum Committee in 1996, the second-to-last successful OPRF referendum to pass. He is now treasurer of OPRF Pragmatic Pool Solutions.

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