As many know, the path of District 200’s efforts to decide on a plan for a new pool has been long and arduous, full of twists, turns, false starts, dead ends, promising possibilities, demoralizing disappointments, glittering temptations, sobering reconsiderations, and other hazards of an epic journey. On our odyssey, I think I’ve actually encountered the Cyclops — maybe a whole island of them. And board members have repeatedly had to thread the narrows between various Scyllas and Charybdises, where our best hope lay in reducing our losses. 

But we have reached a point where a satisfying ending may truly be in sight. The plan reflected in the Nov. 8 referendum question is solid, and I urge citizens to vote yes.

The long-term facilities plan before voters meets several key needs: a new aquatics facility providing adequately for physical education and team competition as well as community usage, sufficient on-campus parking, preservation of green space, expansion of performing arts spaces, renovation of an ancient locker room, and opportunities for instructional flexibility and innovation. 

The price is reasonable, and the board will do everything possible to hold expenses below estimates. This would be the first major building project at the school in almost 50 years, and it is long overdue. Our current pools, built in 1928 on opposite sides of the building to separate the sexes, leak chlorinated water at a shocking rate, require students to walk across the fieldhouse in wet bathing suits, and present ever-worsening health hazards.

The current plan was not my first choice, but I voted for it because it is adequate, practical, responsible and realistic. It is also far better than the two-pool long-term facilities solution favored by the “vote no” group, which would diminish the current PE and aquatics programs, eliminate the adaptive PE gym for special education students, build on the green setback on Scoville between the main entrance and athletic entrance, and, once we could find a location for a new adaptive PE gym, actually cost more than the plan on the ballot. The two-pool plan is such a flawed idea, in my opinion, that had it been adequately vetted with coaches, PE teachers, and the Special Ed Division in the first place, it never would have been considered at our community meetings last spring and summer.

Despite the great amount of information available to the public throughout our journey, I know that many voters still do not feel fully informed about the choice at hand. If that is your situation, I hope you will either trust the serious, honest, thoughtful, diligent, dedicated, fiscally responsible public servants you elected to the board, and our unanimous decision, or do your best to educate yourself before you vote. To me, a long-time Oak Park citizen and taxpayer, a father of three OPRF grads, and veteran of more than 35 years in various professional and leadership positions in our high school — as teacher, administrator, and board member — the choice is clear.

Steve Gevinson is a member of the District 200 school board.

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