On March 23, in the opening of OPRF/District 200’s PR campaign for Phase 2 of their facility plan (the $60+ million pool/PE demolition/rebuild), Superintendent Greg Johnson wrote a One View essay in Viewpoints, saying Physical Education (PE) areas “pose health and safety concerns.” 

He then went on to list “falling ceiling tiles … buckets filled with dirty water from the leaking roof, mold …”, a “hard, slippery linoleum floor that is not appropriate for dance instruction” and more. In a follow-up Facebook post in a community group, a PE teacher said there are rats and cockroaches throughout the facility as well.

The point seemed to be “things are terrible, so it’s time to tear it down and build the new building.”

I had another impression: “What the hell are you people doing? Are my kids safe in PE at OPRF?”

After all, these issues aren’t new. A Feb. 2, 2016, Wednesday Journal article on the pools by Michael Romain mentions dangerous falling tiles and rats. The school’s own 2018 PR video for its Imagine facility committee also laments dangerous broken ceiling tiles and leaks.

We also recently found out (through Monica Sheehan’s dogged reporting) that Larson Engineering inspected the pools for the district in 2016 and found serious issues, and their August 2021 report said none of those issues had been addressed. Over five years. (The West pool finally failed a few weeks ago — as Larson predicted — and the board quickly approved a $900,000 fix.)

So it seems as if the only time OPRF cares about these dangerous and gross conditions is when it needs to sell the public its pool-stadium/PE building project. Well, I guarantee you don’t need a $60+ million new building to get rid of rats. Or mitigate mold.

As a parent of two OPRF students, I’m furious at these conditions and the risks D200 seems comfortable with. At their March 24 meeting focused on PE facilities, not one board member asked why repairs have not been made over the past five years. No one said how shameful it is to have these conditions with $100 million sitting in the bank.

Yes, that’s right. Our kids have to risk falling ceiling tiles and roaches while D200 hoards 100 million tax dollars in a reserve fund and continues to tax us.

If there are falling ceiling tiles, use the $100+ million to fix them. If there are rats and roaches, use the $100+ million to get rid of them. If there are leaks, use the $100+ million to plug them. If the floor is too slippery for dance, use the $100 million to replace it.

At some point, D200 and residents will come together to forge a sensible facility upgrade. But until it opens, let’s not neglect current students’ safety and experience — especially for PR efforts.

Brian Souders
Oak Park

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