The past few weeks, this opinion section has included several letters from people imploring us to support OPRF High School’s “Project 2” pool/gym renovation.

And I don’t get it. That’s because Project 2 isn’t even defined yet and there is no vote on this in front of the school board.

In a private meeting a few weeks ago, Superintendent Greg Johnson told me that they are still working with the architecture firm to determine what this next pool-focused project will include and cost. And the most recent D200 Board Highlights emails publicly confirm this. Then they need to figure out how to pay for whatever it ends up being.

One letter writer (a former Imagine-eer!) said it’s important for us to support this project because of how inadequate and dated the field house is — except the field house is in Phase 3 of the Imagine plan and its modernization is not currently being considered!

As someone who’s followed the pool saga closely, here’s what I would tell Oak Park and River Forest residents: ignore these coordinated public relations pieces and wait to see what that final Project 2 plan will include and what it will cost us. Then start asking what the plans are for Imagine Phases 3, 4 and 5 — modernization of the field house (which is used much more than the pools), classrooms, performing arts spaces, labs, and more.

What I think we’ll find is that once the ribbon cutting for the pool-stadium, locker rooms, and handful of gyms is done in 2024, so will be the modernization push. The Imagine scheme will have done its job, the PR consultants will close their OPRF files, the letter writers will abandon their keyboards, OPRF will still take more taxes from us than it needs and we won’t see meaningful upgrades to the school for a generation.

But we will always have the pool.

Brian Souders
Oak Park

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