There have been a series of Viewpoints letters in the last several weeks supporting the Imagine Plan’s Project 2 and replacement of OPRF High School’s aging physical education (PE) facilities — including its indoor track and swimming pools. Some letter writers have urged these improvements in the name of equity. All their arguments have been made in all-or-nothing-at-all terms.
But no one is arguing that nothing be done about the PE facilities, though many would be in much better shape had necessary repairs not been neglected — presumably to build support for Project 2.
And it is certainly not the case that Project 2 is the only possible way to address PE facility needs. Project 2 calls for tearing down a structurally-sound building that otherwise could be renovated to include things like handicapped accessibility, new locker rooms, gender-neutral bathrooms and a new pool of standard high school competition size. A new building is required only to accommodate the Imagine Pool — a 16-lane x 25-yard pool with 600 spectator seats. The Imagine pool is unnecessarily large — just six lanes short of an Olympic-size pool.
Some letters have implied that our high school should have facilities as good or better than any other suburban high school. But this is a want, not a need. We don’t have to spend $65+ million to address real needs.
Those who have noted the shortcomings of the indoor track in the Field House don’t seem to understand that Project 2 does not include any work on the Field House, where the track is located. The Imagine Plan does not address the Field House until Project 5 — dead last. As a result, these letter writers don’t understand the inequity involved here. The number of students on aquatic teams is about half of those on track-and-field teams. The aquatic team students are almost all white. The track-and-field teams are the high school’s most diverse.
Project 1 is at least 25% over budget. And per FGM construction architects, the 2018 cost estimates for the Imagine Plan are too low. Yet the District 200 school board has rubber-stamped moving forward on Project 2, which surely will cost more than the $65 million Imagine Plan estimate. If they proceed, the likelihood is that Projects 3 and 4 will never be completed, let alone Project 5.
The D200 board promised many times that it will review and prioritize the remaining Imagine Plan projects. It has a responsibility to the community, taxpayers, and D200 students to keep that promise. I urge you to email the board, BOE@oprfhs.org, to insist that they fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities instead of rubber-stamping the administration’s requests.
Judith Alexander is an Oak Park resident.