The OPRF High School District 200 administration practices demolition by neglect in failing to make any pool repairs for at least seven years, repairs needed to continue using the pools until replacement, according to the Aug.10, 2021 Larson Report. The goal of D200’s neglect is to allow the structure of the pools to deteriorate, thereby forcing their demolition, placing students’ safety at risk in the process.

The neglect of the pools and the urgent repair cited by Larson for the west pool were highlighted in a public comment at the Jan. 13 board meeting, underscoring that D200 had no plans to address it until summer. Note, D200 recently pivoted, closing the west pool on Feb. 12.

The Larson Report was brought to light by a Freedom of Information Act request and has not been presented in public meetings. It is the third report on the pools by the firm, issued in 2013, 2016 and 2021. The same engineer issued all three reports. The last two reports were sent to D200 Buildings & Grounds Director Fred Preuss.

Last August’s report states that “all sides of both pools should be reinforced, although repair to the walls of the west pool should be a priority.” Specifically, the report underscores the immediate need for temporary bracing of the walls of the west pool to be implemented within three months. According to a Jan. 12 email from the engineer, the pool walls will most likely become unable to retain water and the support of the floor deck could be compromised. She stated that the repair is urgent and should not be delayed. 

In an email just a week earlier, Superintendent Greg Johnson wrote, “These repairs will require the pools to be drained, rendering them unusable for instruction, and therefore will have to be made over the summer months.” Yet the pools have been closed for repairs during the school year in the past.

The financial cost of D200’s demolition by neglect is great. The school’s maintenance plan includes the line item “Pool and locker rooms” with a $46 million price tag. In a November email, Johnson wrote that the pool was included in the plan “because the Board should be aware of the potential financial impact of replacing the pools if IDPH forces us to close them due to major repair issues and/or code violations.” 

The administration’s agenda is made clear by its recent board presentations of funding options aimed at bypassing taxpayers to build Project 2 and its 17-lane pool and 600-seat natatorium. Best practice, however, dictates that major capital projects go to referendum for voters’ funding approval.

Monica Sheehan is a resident of Oak Park.

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