When the OPRF athletic facilities were constructed a century ago, they were state-of-the-art. They weren’t just acceptable; they were exceptional. The field house drew national acclaim. Two pools meant all students could swim — another exceptional, equitable achievement.

But that was the 1920s.

By the ’50s, things had changed. The indoor track, once a marvel, was already a dinosaur — too short for sanctioned competition, with four sharp corners that risk injury to runners (never fixed, by the way. For the past 70 years other communities have provided their students with safe, modern indoor competition tracks. Not OPRF).

Things changed with the pools, too. Over the past 50 years, nearly every high school of OPRF’s size (and certainly every community we benchmark ourselves against) has built new, modern pool facilities. Other communities host swim competitions, with families as spectators in the stands, without risk of catastrophic collapse. Some of these other communities have even built — dare I say it? — Olympic-sized pools.

The fact is, OPRF has been left behind. That matters. The high school is the single most important institution in most communities. A failure to invest in that singularly important institution leads the high school to begin to fade. And usually, inexorably, the community begins to die.

Our collective failure to invest in OPRF for the past 50 years has consequences. We can make a different choice. We can make the appropriate investments to provide safe learning spaces for today and for the future. We can fund physical education learning spaces that are both equitable and exceptional.

I urge the District 200 school board members to rise to the challenge their predecessors ignored for decades. I support the plan for improvements to the athletic facilities and hope the board will act.

Laura Minnis
River Forest resident

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