Varsity girls swimmers begin swimming on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, during the swim team's swim-a-thon inside the West Pool at Oak Park and River Forest High School. | ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer

After being closed for eight months, the West Pool at Oak Park and River Forest High School reopened Nov. 1. The latest repairs do not permanently solve the pool’s structural issues and ongoing leaking, but the expensive patches might carry the school’s aquatic program for now as debate continues over the future of swimming pools and physical education facilities at the school.

The 94-year-old pool was deemed inoperable in February 2022 following an inspection that determined the pool was in need of urgent structural repair. There were efforts to repair the pool before the 2022-23 school year began, but it began to leak again, according to an October update from the school.

Early this year, the District 200 school board approved $1,174,007 in repairs for both of the school’s pools. The amount spent as of August was $377,921, according to the school. The costs of the additional repairs will not be available until the end of November.

To address leakage, a pool liner was added and gutters were treated, along with the replacement of valves, and sealing of the basins below the pool drains, said Ronald Anderson, operations director at OPRF.

A major concern about the pool was water accumulating below the pool slab, Anderson said – causing water to fill the space between the pool structure and exterior wall and creating further damage, so weep holes were installed in the base of the pool to allow the water to escape into the drain.

“That stopped the walls from leaking, which makes the integrity of the pool a lot better now because we won’t get moisture on the rebar,” Anderson said.

Anderson said with the age of the pools, however, it may not be possible to fully prevent leaking on a permanent basis, and the weep holes are only a safety measure.

Planning and discussions about the future of the indoor athletic facilities on the south end of the Scoville Avenue campus are underway. The school recently received a detailed architectural schematic and price estimate on replacing the current building and building new. The price tag was just under $100 million. That plan currently includes a single new 25-yard by 40-yard pool with a spectator balcony to replace the 550 seats along the two current pools.

Pool critics continue to argue that the planned pool is oversized and too expensive.

The school board and administration are assessing the new plan and will discuss options for financing any project over the next several months.

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