With the District 200 administration set to release the construction cost of Project 2 at the school board meeting this Thursday, Oct. 27, it’s important to underscore that the proposal’s 40-yard x 25-yard pool (16-practice lanes and a six-foot-wide bulkhead) is not the only possible pool solution.

There are two pragmatic pool solutions that D200 has never presented to the community: a one-pool option (20-yards x 25-yards) in the East Pool/South Gym and a year-round pool collaboration at Ridgeland Common. Unlike Project 2’s pool, neither pragmatic, cost-effective pool solution would require the expensive demolition and rebuild of the southeast corner of the school.

The 20-yard x 25-yard pool in the East Pool/South Gym was recommended in the Stantec Report, a year-long review of the school’s pools and their usage conducted by the world-renowned Stantec engineering company, released in 2013. It’s the only comprehensive, independent, professional review of the school’s pools. Stantec stated that OPRF’s 11 swim lanes are a luxury for a high school and that, “Typical modern high school aquatics programs are supported by one 8-lane, 25-yard pool.” OPRF’s self-imposed swim requirement is 12 weeks for all students, excessive compared to most other schools.

The other and most pragmatic solution would be a D200 collaboration with the park district to create a year-round pool facility for the school and community’s use. Preliminary plans drawn up a few years ago estimated that a new 20-yard x 25-yard pool, along with two other pools at Ridgeland Common, would cost $14 million, $7 million per taxing body. In addition to its cost-effectiveness, this pool solution would result in the repurposing of both pools (three floors each) for other uses in the space-constrained school.

Here is a fact that D200 doesn’t publicize regarding the Imagine Group:

An unnecessary restriction was imposed that all Imagine proposals must lie within the footprint of the school’s campus, which prevented a pool collaboration at Ridgeland Common from being presented to the community as an option.

Over the years, why have the administration and school board not presented these cost-effective pool solutions to the community? It all comes down to their wants, not needs, and the wants of the small but clearly influential aquatic community.

D200’s bond consultant presented in August a singular draft funding proposal for Project 2, created with input from the administration and designed specifically to bypass voters. With its construction costs about to be unveiled, it’s important to remind Superintendent Greg Johnson (gjohnson@oprfhs.org) and the school board (boe@oprfhs.org) that Project 2’s funding belongs on the ballot for all voters to decide. OPRF is our school, and it’s our money.

Monica Sheehan is an Oak Park resident.

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