Our community’s values don’t align with D200’s proposed physical education (PE)/athletics expenditure, and it isn’t the best use of our limited educational dollars. Bypassing voters to fund a $67 million, four-story PE/athletic complex has been a focus of recent D200 school board meetings. One financing option would drain the cash reserve, amassed via a loophole for nearly a decade. Draining the cash reserve will put an operating referendum on our doorstep. It’s already a possibility in 2023, according to D200.
The proposed sports complex would feature a 600-seat aquatic center housing a 10-lane competition pool and dedicated diving well (17 practice lanes) for the school’s fewer than 100 unique IHSA aquatic team members in any given year. It’s an expensive “want” and not a “need” of the school. This $67 million proposal is a poster child for aquatic exceptionalism.
No high school needs a pool this size. It’s a fact that, on average, OPRF requires two to three times more days of PE swimming than other schools in its division and conference, respectively. OPRF’s Pool FAQ page falsely states that its requirement is on par with peer schools and includes other questionable responses. OPRF spends nearly $1 million a year on PE aquatic salaries. Yet the school can’t substantiate the merits of its burdensome and self-imposed PE swim program since it conducts no exit testing.
The $218 million plan’s cost estimates lack transparency and component pricing. D200 says this pool would cost only $2.5 million, the cost of digging the hole, its mechanicals and liner. Yet, this sequence’s entire $67 million price tag is an associated building cost of this pool that is double the size of a standard-size high school competition pool. It can’t be built without demolishing the structurally sound building, unlike the sequence’s other elements that can be accommodated through renovation.
There are, however, two rational pool solutions that would serve the best interests of all stakeholders today and tomorrow. Neither option requires the demolition of the structurally sound south end of the building. The price tag for each is less than $20 million. Both of these pragmatic solutions would yield the added benefit of creating significant space within the building.
One solution is a standard-size high school competition pool in the east pool/south gym site. This pool solution was featured in a Legat 2016 pool plan, the 2013 Stantec Report and the 2003 Wight Report. The other solution is a joint pool partnership between D200 and the park district to create a year-round aquatic resource at Ridgeland Commons for the school and community.
OPRF could model its PE swim program after Glenbard North. It requires all students to take a three-week session of swimming, but has no pool on campus. Students are bused to the park district for swim classes during the school day. The focus of the class is water safety. OPRF could also offer a summer school option.
Email the board, BoE@oprfhs.org, and urge them to cast votes aligned with our community’s values.
Monica Sheehan is a member of OPRF Pragmatic Solutions.