Oak Park River Forest OKs plan to build pool

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Contributing Reporter

After years of debate and study, the school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School Tuesday approved a complicated motion to build an Olympic-sized pool on the school's baseball field but only if an off-campus site can be acquired by April 23 to house the displaced team.

The board also decided Tuesday not to place a tax hike referendum on the April ballot. That referendum would have been tied to a still uncertain plan on how to fund pool construction. John Phelan, school board president, said Wednesday that there was not adequate time to plan for a referendum vote or to educate citizens on its merits. 

With a 5 to 2 vote, board members approved plans to build a new pool facility – attached to the main school building -- on the baseball field to the west of the school. Part two of the plan, though, is to secure another site off the campus to house the baseball program, or alternatively the softball or tennis program as second and third priority by the April 23 board meeting. 

Board members Dr. Ralph Lee and Sharon Patchak-Layman voted against the motion. 

Phelan said building the pool facility on the baseball field would leave room for only two sports programs and that the third sports program would need to be moved to another location. 

A site owned by the Village of Forest Park, the so-called Altenheim property off of Madison Street, was one potential property mentioned as an off-campus site during public comment Tuesday. 

"Altenheim was a location referenced during public comment. I can't say it's anything more than one of several possibilities," Phelan said Wednesday. "I will work with administration to form a team to look for options. We'll explore what sites are available, what costs they involve, whether or not they are viable and bring them back to the board." 

As part of the motion OKd Tuesday, the board also approved two other options for building the new pool if efforts to find another site for one of the three high school's sports programs are unsuccessful by April 23.

The second option includes knocking down the village-owned parking garage on campus and using that site for a pool. Under that scenario the school district would work to create additional on-street and other parking options.

A third option includes the same steps as the second, but would instead include an estimated 118 parking spaces as part of the new pool facility.

Option one would cost the district an estimated $34.3 million plus additional costs of buying off-campus property, rehabbing that property and transporting students to the off-site location. 

Option two would cost an estimated $36.3 million and option three would cost an estimated $47.6 million, according to a cost comparisons document provided by the district.

OPRF currently has two swimming pools, an eight lane pool and a six lane pool, which are both deemed to be obsolete. 

"One of the construction consultants said it's very difficult to repair them because many parts of the pools are deteriorated," Patchak-Layman said Wednesday. "They're just on their last leg. I hope they can hang in until a new pool gets built." 

Building a new pool facility has been an ongoing issue at District 200 for several years now. 

Lee, who voted against the motion, said he blames himself and Patchak-Layman for the district being in this situation. 

"We have been on this board for seven years and others less than that. We blew it," Lee said at the meeting. "Do we consider this to be our single highest priority? Putting off building this pool will cause considerable pain and damage."

Patchak-Layman, who also voted against the motion, said she has difficulty with the district putting $48.8 million toward building the new swimming pool. 

"I would be much happier if we came in at $30 million or less; $45 million [or more] is way out of line," Patchak-Layman said at the meeting. She said building the pool on the baseball field would remove green space from the community. 

Steve Gevinson, a school board member and longtime OPRF teacher, said an Olympic sized swimming pool would be a great asset to the community. But, he added destroying the parking garage to build the swimming pool would create more problems.


"If we're going to build an enormous facility, people need to park somewhere [close by], not four or five blocks away," Gevinson said at the meeting.

Phelan said he will work with administration to form a team to create a parking plan if the district decides to build on the garage site.

Updates on the parking plan and alternative sites for OPRF's sports programs will be presented at the next board of education meeting Jan. 29.

Related to the pool vote was a discussion of whether to approve a tax hike referendum this April to help fund the project. The deadline to get such a question on the coming ballot is Jan. 20. Phelan said there will be no such measure this year.

"There were no fair and appropriate referendum questions we could put on the ballot," Phelan said Wednesday. "There's no time to educate the public. We would be sending a confused public to the polls in April."

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Posted: January 25th, 2015 2:08 PM

if i proposed everyone at my office had to do something and it was going to cost us $50 million dollars, we wouldn't do it and I would be fired.

Amy from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2015 7:32 PM

Many of you have commented that a new pool would benefit only a fraction of the students at OPRFHS. Actually ALL students at OPRF swim - it is a required part of the curriculum. Some students even learn to swim in PE. And summer camps use the pool, too.

William from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2015 10:24 AM

The baseball fields are the LAST green space on the already TOO urban campus. They must be saved! Let's expand the thinking and realize that a pool can be built with parking above, or below and save ALL or most of the existing Fields. The difference between 36 million or 45 million is small in comparison to the value of the Oak Park Image projected to the greater community.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2015 11:40 AM

@Bill Copper: Those underfunded school pensions are listed that way as part of accrual accounting, since they were incurred on behalf of the entities. But they are not the obligations of the Districts, and belong to the Teachers' Retirement System, backed up by the State (your income taxes). There has never been any talk of having schools pay for those past costs, only for ramping up to the ongoing future costs, as Chicago has always had to do. This is being used as a false excuse to hoard money

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2015 10:54 AM

Bill - agree 100%. I have always been in favor of paying off D200's underfunded pension with the surplus. It's the smart thing to do - especially if the Rauner administration and Springfield decide to send the responsibility of pensions back to municipalities and school districts. And half the $100+ would not be spent on the pool. OPRF is looking to fund about half the cost of the pool with the surplus, the rest with debt. Thus the apprehension about a referendum and asking to issue debt.

Bill Kopper from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 21st, 2015 10:43 AM

Does OP Board 200 ever do any Strategic Planning? Do our governing bodies ever try to cooperate? We all know pension payments have begun to compete with provision of local services. We also have seen that OP 200 was able to build up a $100M + surplus. Instead of blowing half on an expensive pool, maybe place some of that surplus aside for pension obligations. Next stop D200 from overtaxing us so the other government bodies can build up surpluses to better meet their pension obligations. According to County Treasurer Maria Pappas, D200, D97 and VOP have underfunded pensions. Maybe we could fix that before blowing $34-50 M on a pool.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2015 10:17 AM

Brian - good points. If a kid is the lead in the spring play and her grades falter, does she lose the part? But what about those who don't participate in extra curriculars? What is their penalty? Extra study time in the library? Who monitors that? And does that just give that kid an even lousier attitude? The gap has existed forever and will always exist. There will always be those who lag behind for whatever reason, and I'm sure they are at every high school in the area. Can only do so much.

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: January 21st, 2015 10:02 AM

"No matter how much money is thrown at "the gap", "the gap" will always exist". Is this the official position of the elected school board, staff and teachers? My daughter was on swim and water polo teams. She was held to an academic standard and AP standards and if her grades fell,she was mandated to the athlete table for extra study before and after school to improve her grades or she couldn't play.Are lower performing students mandated to improve their grades? Who/how are they helping them?


Posted: January 21st, 2015 9:51 AM

@ numbers. Frankly uniformed and silly. So just because racism/poverty ... whatever exists, lets not worry about it? Well let me clue you in - first it is in all of our interest as they will drive US standard of living, second right thing to do, third its their job etc..


Posted: January 21st, 2015 9:47 AM

Good. Where do I submit my proposal to build a $50M state-of-the-art mountain for OPRF's long-suffering downhill ski team?

John in Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2015 4:21 AM

So $34M-$50M to build an absolute state of the art facility to benefit what percentage of school population? When we just completed a major community pool renovation across the street that could not be coordinated with HS resources to achieve needs of both HS + community? And then we are going to be saddled with another bill for a new other sports facility that kids will have to take a bus to? This Board needs to start making more thoughtful decisions with our money.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 4:51 PM

"No matter how much money is thrown at 'the gap', 'the gap' will always exist." If the district were broke, it would be easier to argue that money shouldn't be "thrown at" the gap. But, if you have $50 million for an extracurricular, you can afford to "throw" some money at students who are underperforming in core curriculum. Even if you think it's their own fault.

Boondoggle from Oak Park  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 4:44 PM

Best part is the cost of the new baseball facility [purchase and development] and the "re purposing" of the pools is not included in the cost estimates. Nor the tennis courts which will need to be re done in the very near future. Pool committee had a very narrow focus and presented a confused and bulky recommendation without considering all of the costs involved. Interesting that Phelan thinks we are not able to be educated...

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 4:30 PM

Numbers - well said. No matter how much money is thrown at "the gap", "the gap" will always exist. Always. It always has and it always will. Call it a "Cost of Doing Business" because programs are made to address it even though it isn't going anywhere. Accept it. Deal with it. I'm not a fan of spending money to get kids caught up to a high school level when they should have been there when they got to OPRF but there will always be those who aren't interested, therefore need more attention.

Dan in Oak Park  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 4:01 PM

If other sports can be expected to move off campus, why not just find an off campus site for a swimming complex, say on unused land along Madison Ave in Oak Park? Keep the existing pools for gym classes, save on the entire tear down costs and let the new swimming complex be used by the public when the school is not hosting an event. I expect this would be a much cheaper and simpler than what has been proposed thus far.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 3:57 PM

"The gap is not easy to fix or everyone would be doing it!" "Everyone" is not sitting on a $100 million surplus.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 3:54 PM

"They have over 20% low income and numerous students who move to OP just to attend high school. You can't even blame D97 for those." The district is still required by law to meet the individual educational needs of the students you call "those." While it's easier and cheaper for the district to just write "those" off, and build a big-ass aquatic facility, D200 is a SCHOOL District, not a park district. Their core mission is teaching, even if it means teaching "those."


Posted: January 20th, 2015 3:43 PM

(cont). play a huge role. If students don't work hard, they won't do well. Opportunities are given but not taken. Short of putting gap students in special classes that require mastery (and increasing the dropout rate), the school is often left at the whim of teenage irresponsibility (and parent indifference). The pool cost issue is letting many of you take potshots at a school with high academics and outstanding extra-curriculars. The gap is not easy to fix or everyone would be doing it!


Posted: January 20th, 2015 3:38 PM

@OP Transplant... Here is the quote from OP: "If leadership spent as much time and effort to drive academic excellence and the gap, OPRF would be in TOP 25 in area." My response showed that they are in the Top 25 even without everyone's perceived academic leadership. OPRF is an outstanding high school serving a very diverse population. They have over 20% low income and numerous students who move to OP just to attend high school. You can't even blame D97 for those. And student responsibility...


Posted: January 20th, 2015 2:57 PM

OPT - well said. Yes, white swim parents who are doing well can give a flying fuc_ about greater good or the numerous children who leave OPRF not ready to go to college much less earn a fair living. this is classic example of special interest winning out over greater good. Focus on great education for all kids black, brown, white, rich or poor.


Posted: January 20th, 2015 2:27 PM

I wish hockey parents received the same kind of administrative support that swim parents are getting. Student hockey players (i.e., their parents) have to come up with a ton of money for their kids to play. And, in terms of T.V. viewership, hockey is much more popular than swimming. Very unfair.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 11:49 AM

Numbers - Tribune rates the HS much lower, but that's not really the issue. No one questions that it's an excellent school for the white and affluent. Data for low-income and minority students is more troubling (the gap.) Now it's easy to say that affluent white students outperform low-income minority students in just about every district, and that's true. But just about every district isn't sitting on a $100 million war chest, and planning a $50 million pool. Priorities?


Posted: January 20th, 2015 11:42 AM

@OP... Not sure what you're complaining about concerning OPRF's academic ranking in the area or state. U.S. News and World Reports lists OPRF as the 19th best Illinois high school for 2014. Eight of the schools ahead of them are highly selective Chicago high schools where students are selected to attend. Take those out and you have OPRF as #11 for non-Chicago public high schools in the State. That meets your Top 25 and Top 15 memories from 30 years ago.

The Cost of Living in Oak Park  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 9:49 AM

Similar to other Oak Park-related issues, committees serve to deliver undisclosed, predetermined outcomes, and in the process, pit several group's self-interests against another, resulting in a divisive and corrosive process. Our strategy is to avoid these inherent OP distractions and focus only on navigating through the system by selecting good teachers/classes/coaches/activities that best serve our interests. Anything else is a waste of time and effort.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 9:46 AM

"OP" states it very clearly. For a school district, teaching all students to read and do math at grade level is a "need". This is even true for students who are not white. This is core mission. An indoor 50m pool with seating for 500 can never be a "need". It is a "want". It is, in fact, an especially luxurious "want". It cannot take precedent over effective instruction for students, even if the students needing improved instruction are not white.


Posted: January 20th, 2015 6:44 AM

If leadership spent as much time and effort to drive academic excellence and the gap, OPRF would be in TOP 25 in area. Recall OPRF was in TOP 15 in State in 80's. We need to refocus and serve the students/parents for the LONG RUN. One/two swimmers do college but 100% (thousands) of black/brown children must compete in brutal world ( that is global). PLEASE PLEASE FOCUS

dave mason from oak park IL  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 12:45 AM

Just put a roof over the Ridgeland pool .. Viola!

Bill D from Oak Park IL  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 12:39 AM

When does Phelans re-election come up?

Harry Z from Oak Park IL  

Posted: January 20th, 2015 12:37 AM

Keep our historic green spaces green! NO pool on our historic baseball field!

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 11:57 PM

We are short on space. So let's build an OLYMPIC-SIZED pool. Yeah, that makes all the sense in the world. God forbid we should be based in reality and build something that can actually fit.

alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 11:34 PM

Let's get this straight! TOO MUCH MONEY - - TOO LITTLE PUBLIC BENEFIT - - TOO LITTLE COMMUNITY COOPERATION! This is another attempt to get the public to spend BIG BUCKS for another recreational facility which will benefit a small number of vocal citizens with special interests. At the same time, "extras" are always added to provide yoga and fitness facilities which compete against the private businesses, whose taxes are used against them.

50m Pool!  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 5:31 PM

@Unfortunately There will no doubt be a referendum and hopefully these communities will be educated on what a 50m pool IS (Ridgeland with a roof) and what it ISN'T (The Cube or the TajMahal) and on the health opportunities for fitness in our obese society! The PD and HS blew it when Ridgeland was improved and hockey came in with $$$ - let's not blow it again!


Posted: January 19th, 2015 4:24 PM

And so the argument has veered from how great a new pool will be for the students (PE classes, swim lessons) to where it will also be a great thing for a couple of hundred (at most) non-students. Isn't the latter use why Park Districts exist - not schools? The swimming-parents are now trying to have school money spent on non-school things - not exactly a "do it for the children!" argument. Perhaps the community wants this non-school Taj Majal - let's put it to a vote (called a referendum).


Posted: January 19th, 2015 4:19 PM

@50m pool (aka, $50M pool?) - I don't believe that you are correct with the Y and what they offer regarding lessons and opportunities - perhaps this will help - : http://www.westcookymca.org/main/swim-lessons/ Perhaps it's not like having the limited availability of the OPRF pool, but it also will allow us to return to the main mission of a school (which isn't providing leisure opportunities). Didn't we already have a referendum question on this issue? I believe that we did....and it lost.

50m Pool!  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 4:13 PM

@Big Picture Research of other pools indicates usage of community and HS from 5a until 10p, 7 days a week. A 50m pool will allow for tremendous flexibility and usage. Anything smaller will limit use to HS only. Many adult users would be happy to use it at 5a or after 8p - all hours when the HS students should be sleeping or doing homework.

Big picture  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 3:13 PM

I'd also add that a significant number of Oak Park residents are members of swim clubs, triathlon clubs, being coached in programs...all of whom are fighting for limited time at UIC, other HS pools. I'd like to see the new pool opened to nearly 24-hour use. But let's make sure residents get 1st priority before we open it up to non-resident groups using the facility. Because they will want to.

Big picture  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 3:10 PM

Done, I think it's 12 ft for 3m diving? Up to 17 feet for a 10m board. There are diagrams and guidelines by the state with exact floor slope. Not sure about ceiling...any divers out there?

50m Pool!  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 3:09 PM

@Unfortunately, The current arrangement is a test and exists within these limited pools. A 50m pool would allow for greater access by multiple groups at the same time as is done in other 50m HS pools. The Y is good for kids under 5 not in school during the day but there are plenty of kids age 5 and up who could take lessons after 3pm not to mention the health benefits for adults in our community.


Posted: January 19th, 2015 3:01 PM

@50M pool. Thanks. I see that they have limited time available (W nights and SU mornings) for these programs and in the 25 meter pools. Am I correct in supposing that the needs of OPRF would continue to restrict these limited opportunities in the future? The good news is that the YMCA has this: http://www.westcookymca.org/clientuploads/Schedules/WinterONE2015_Pool.pdf. And, of course, kids can take lessons in the summer when they don't have school in the OP pools!

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 2:48 PM

Just curious - in order to be within code for diving, how high does the ceiling need to be and how deep does the pool need to be?

Big Picture  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 2:29 PM

It needs to be clarified, but last I heard there would be non-school use allowed as there is now. Currently the park district offers lessons during the school year, too, and Sunday lap swimming in the old pools. You must pre-register though.

50m pool!  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 2:23 PM

@Unfortunately - check out the OPPD, they are currently offering lap swim AND lessons for kids at the HS and guess what - full and wait lists since September! A new program called Swim Academy. These folks are trying to work together so that YES - the pool WILL be for the community. https://registration.pdop.org/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wbsearch.html?xxmod=ar&wbmobile=no&xxtype=popro&xxdisplayoption=d&wbsi=si


Posted: January 19th, 2015 2:20 PM

@Big picture - am I missing something here, but hasn't it been made clear that the new pool will NOT be for "the community?" That it will be pretty much just for the school? The school calendar is August - June and during the day are the PE classes and before/after school are the athletic programs. Swim lessons are offered by PDOP during June, July and August and so plenty of opportunities for lessons are available in the summer.

50m pool!  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 1:23 PM

Please stop conjuring up visions of "The Cube" and other truly Olympic pools. It's a 50 meter regulation pool and guess what? We have TWO in Oak Park, all we need is one that is accessible 12 months a year rather than 12 weeks a year! Wednesday Journal - get your facts right, OPRF has two pools, 1 is 6 lane and one is 5 lane, both are 25 yards. OPRF removed diving because it failed to meet code.


Posted: January 19th, 2015 1:22 PM

@Big-Niles North seats 500. Like I said...copy and paste. http://architizer.com/projects/niles-north-high-school-aquatics-center/

Big picture  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 11:23 AM

Muntz, don't forget we're talking about a community facility here, too. Parents will be wanting to watch children while they take swim lessons. 500 may be a bit much, but what's the right number? Let's not forget that we lack bus parking so teams can't keep gear on a conveniently-parked bus then run out to get an item. I remember in my HS days how much we liked to spread out in the bleachers during long competitions.


Posted: January 19th, 2015 11:04 AM

And so here is the question: are the "swimming-parents" willing to forego their dreams of the most expensive high school pool in the universe - which requires evicting the baseball, softball, tennis teams - for just the best "high school pool" in Illinois? Sure, sure, someone might "realize in 30 years that we should have gone Olympic-sized....." but perhaps they won't. In the meantime, everyone can return to all of the rest of the impt objectives of a high school - and have millions left over!


Posted: January 19th, 2015 11:01 AM

@Big-Why are we catering to spectators? Is there a huge demand to watch competitive swim? Is the goal to host Nationals or Olympic trials? Are we scaling too large like the original upper deck at US Cellular Field just to have seating that will be 95% empty even during events? Pack em in nice and tight. We'll be the Cameron Indoor Stadium or the high school swimming circuit.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 10:53 AM

The Pool Committee, and by extension, the D200 Board, has not been completely forthcoming with info in this process. For example, the existing pools condition report has not been posted, which would answer many of the questions being asked. Since the public is funding the proposed natatorium, a public tour and explanation of existing pools would be helpful. Also, the pool committee continues to refer to off- campus sites for baseball/softball/tennis, but hasn't identified any specific site.


Posted: January 19th, 2015 10:50 AM

I think if you asked taxpayers if they could plop the Niles North Aquatic Center into the OPRFHS footprint at the same price, with the same aesthetics and amenities, I think the committee would receive overwhelming support. Instead, we seem intent on reinventing the wheel to impress some mystery architecture judge and over-engineer a single-purpose facility. Niles North built a beautiful facility that is modern yet does not look like a spaceship landed a la Soldier Field. Copy/paste.

Big picture  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 10:22 AM

True, OP Swimmer, a 25m pool is an option. But do we really want to build a small pool only to realize in 30 years that we should have gone Olympic-sized and needed more spectator room? We can't be short sighted and need to consider what OP residents will want/need in 50 years. That's part of what got us into this mess is relying on the old pools for too long and not planning ahead. We should have had a new 50m pool years ago, but past leadership failed there. It's just like crumbling streets.

OP Swimmer  

Posted: January 19th, 2015 8:12 AM

I read through all the committee's reports, faqs, minutes on hte OPRF website. The reason it costs so much because they decided on an Olympic sized pool with seating for 500. They cited community input, which consisted of asking the parents of swimmers. They could have a state of the art competition pool, which is 8 lanes by 25 yards for less than half the price. What about the cross country and wrestling teams?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 11:01 PM

The Niles North HS Aquatic Center opened last year was a combined 15,000 sq ft renovation of an existing pool and a 25,000 sq ft build of a competitive pool and diving area with seating for 500 spectators. The projected cost for this renovation and build was $15 million. This complex also got a LEED gold certification for energy conservation. Must say that the complex is beautiful.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 10:18 PM

Good question to ask Bridgett. My guess is that when asked what the school was looking for, it went well beyond the size of the pool. They probably want to match the brick to the school building, etc. You know it is really hard for OPers to restrain themselves when it comes to building public buildings in elite Oak Park.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 8:34 PM

What muntz said. Seriously, doesn't it bother anyone in our community, even those who are super duper pro natatorium, that the same architecture firm who charged Niles $15 million, wants to charge us $50 million? I get that they are not the same projects, but how could it cost OP/RF more than 300% what it cost Niles?!

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 8:31 PM

PE department doesn't "need" the pool, because they're not required to teach swimming. The primary purpose of this proposed project is for aquatic sports. I don't have anything against aquatic sports, but they are not worth $50 million to me, nor to a lot of other taxpayers. OPRFHS is not doing a very good job teaching basic curriculum to a big segment of its student population. There are better ways to spend this money.

Mark from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 8:09 PM

Looking through the documents posted by the pool committee there is no information on costs of comparable projects completed by other high schools. It sure looks like a new pool is needed, but is it a given that the project must cost $35 - $50 million ?


Posted: January 18th, 2015 4:10 PM

Niles North HS recently built a new aquatics center designed by Legat. 40,000 sq ft total (25K for new addition and 15K for renovation). Construction cost? $15 million! Even the cost per sq ft of just the addition is cheaper than OPRF. Once again, what is so different about our aquatics needs that doubles the cost over this one? http://patch.com/illinois/skokie/niles-north-says-new-aquatics-center-is-for-community-students

Robert Zeh from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 2:13 PM

The district has done a good job making information about the pool available online, including videos of the meetings. The top level page for the pool project is http://www.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/Background-Information.cfm Background information is available at http://www.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/Background-Information.cfm Meeting videos and transcripts is available at http://www.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/Pool-Committee-Meetings.cfm.

Mark from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 2:01 PM

Are the pool committee documents available for public review? I am especially looking for a review of comparable completed projects to validate the cost estimates.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 11:39 AM

The OPHS board is the voice of the taxpayer and not the other way around. To build this pool or not is very controversial as can be seen by these many comments. It is up to the board to take into account what the taxpayers are saying which in this case is not easy.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 11:35 AM

@OPCT - For me it comes down to want or need. I want to replace the pools, it is certainly time. I would like to build a better pool than those now existing. I don't want to spend $50 million to do it. I don't believe we need a new pool if that is the price. The HS has many upcoming needs that are far more important and will be costly. Just the cost to remedy the old pools to classroom space is going to cost millions, add that to the pool costs. Again swimming is not a required class.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 7:32 AM

And we should all read the actual committee document, too. The documents are rational, reasonable, and based on experienced and knowledgeable opinions. (Unlike many expressed below.) And they address many of the questions below. Although I'm childless and don't like the high price tag, I'd be willing to support a referendum. The pool situation really is that dire IMO.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: January 18th, 2015 7:24 AM

I still haven't gotten through all comments, but wanted to add my 2 cents. Before criticizing the decision for a new pool, you really should get a tour of the current "facilities". They're atrocious, embarrassing, and decrepit. I went to a tiny HS with 400 total students (including 8th graders), and our pool was vastly better. The current pool seems suited to no one. The dressing room is smaller than my small bedroom. A district as large and wealthy as OPRF really needs a usable pool.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 8:21 PM

OPCT,I don't think swimming will bring the community together like football does. It's an opinion, so I can't argue an opinion. And the other sports you mention like golf, is not asking for 50 million dollars! LOL. My issue is not with a pool. My issue, as I've said in comments on other stories about this pool, is why are other communities able to build aquatic centers for $15-20 million, and yet we have "consultants" telling us it's going to cost $50 million? What is up with that,Clear Thinker?

OP Clear Thinker from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 8:11 PM

Does the District 200 Board deserve the kudos for a job well done? This most recent pool selection committee is the 3rd one in 3 years. All 3 have come to the same conclusion: The existing pools are on their last legs, and need to be replaced. All 3 committees have studied this, and all 3 concluded the same thing. The board has the money. Yet they refuse to act. Kudos for the District 200 Board? I think not. Elected to make a decision, consistently failing to do so. Our board.

OP Clear Thinker from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 8:02 PM

Bridgett, football and basketball are OK because they somehow bring the community together, but you are against a pool because swimming won't? That seems ridiculously subjective. What metrics are you using to come to this conclusion? Also, please apply the same metrics to golf, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track, volley ball, wrestling, field hockey, ice hockey, wrestling, softball and gymnastics so that we can ax any other sport that fails to "bring the community together."

OP Clear Thinker from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 7:40 PM

The pool is just for the swim team? Both pools are used for Physical Education during every class period of every day. That is 16 classes full of students every day using the pool. Considering the current building is overcrowded at today's enrollment, and that this newspaper reported (3/4/14) that in '18-'19 there would be 700 more students enrolled, where exactly will all these students go with no pool to have class in? Just for the swim team? Only if you ignore facts.


Posted: January 17th, 2015 12:36 PM

@OPT: I was agreeing with you.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 12:32 PM

Huh? - The point I was trying to make (poorly) was that if there are 20 better public high schools in Cook County alone, how many better high schools in the entire Chicago area?


Posted: January 17th, 2015 12:15 PM

@OPT: toss in DuPage County and where does that leave OPRFHS?

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 10:30 AM

"The reason we have good property values is mainly good schools" Which returns us to the question of priorities. Is a good school a school with a $50 million aquatics facility, or a school that provides effective instruction to all of its students (even the minorities?) The Tribune says OPRFHS is the 21st-best public HS in Cook County. Toss Lake County into the mix, and we drop like a rock. And our solution is a $50 million pool? Didn't we used to be progressive, intellectual Oak Park?

Robert Zeh from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 17th, 2015 9:58 AM

@OPRF Grad from Oak Park I've been told by board members that the cost estimates include a 20% contingency. I think 20% is low because it is a large brown field project, it is a once a century project for OPRF, and OPRF has a lot of cash. I'm confident we'll blow through the contingency.

OAk park grandfather   

Posted: January 16th, 2015 8:51 PM

I graduated from OPRF in 1956 and swam in those pools. My children participated in the swim team and synchronized swimming. I am fortunate to have a couple of grandchildren that will attend OPRF soon. I don't understand all these pool issues but I can't believe we are considering getting rid of swimming at Oak Park. OPRF is the heart of our community and we should do what we can to keep the high school strong for generations to come.

Mark from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 7:26 PM

Are there comparable projects where the $40-$50 million cost can be vetted? As an example, with basic Google search, Ensworth High School Natatorium, Nashville, Tennessee. Completed 2012. Fifty meter competition pool, smaller teaching pool, locker rooms, lobbies, mezzanine seating for 300 spectators. Cost $18.8 million. Take a look at it using Google, it is a beautiful building.

RF Dan  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 6:56 PM

OP Trans - The reason we have good property values is mainly good schools...find other similar communities without such facilities. OPRF used the old pool facilities until maintenance costs made a new facility make sense. $50M is a huge number, which I would like to be lower, but ultimately this is a required asset

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 6:41 PM

"All sports I guess then must be luxuries." Dan - I think we can draw a reasonable distinction between all sports, and those that require new $50 million facilities. It's possible to be able to afford many things, but not everything. But I like your reasoning. I'm going to tell my wife that if we can't afford a new Porsche, then we have to get rid of our Honda, because I guess all cars are luxuries.

Patricia O'Shea from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 6:08 PM

Why didn't we make this part of the Ridgeland pool project again?

RF Dan  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 5:27 PM

All sports I guess then must be luxuries. As are the arts, they are not really necessary are they. Let's just fund math and sciences and the heck with everything else. I'm not a parent but I'm willing to pay taxes a reasonable expense for a new pool. The old pool footprint does not seem to work, so we have a dilemma. $50M may be too high, but on correct path..

OP Alum  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 4:04 PM

From Dec. The least costly option is an off-site facility, costing $48.9 million, for competitive swimming and community use, plus renovating the current east pool for instructional physical education swimming classes. When I was at OPRF residents could use the field house in the winter to walk the track and night classes were held. Is the HS open for the community?

Not Fine With The Pool Mahal from Oak Park IL  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 3:41 PM

@Fine with the pool - how much are you willing to have your property tax raised for this extravagance? $500? $1000? $1500? What's your pain threshold?


Posted: January 16th, 2015 3:35 PM

Alum - So who, exactly, will use this new facility?

OP Alum  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 3:26 PM

The existing pools stay and that is where swim classes will still be held. It was mentioned in an earlier article.

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 3:13 PM

I still don't understand why the school needs a pool at all. I went to one of the best high schools in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, and it didn't have a pool. The swim team had meets at an indoor pool in another suburb. This pool just sounds like a giant waste-o-cash. Use it to expand the library or build better science labs or something that will benefit all the kids.

Tom from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 3:01 PM

What will happen with the current space occupied by the two pools? An indoor garage?

Family Guy from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 2:45 PM

@ Lyle Langley from North Haverbrook. You must really be from Oak Park because you are clearly a proponent of recycling ... your jokes. Also, I hear that Conan O'Brien naps in vast piles of money and likes swimming, so you may want to find a new hero. Our actions are determined by our motives, so now that it has been decided that a new pool will be built on the garage site (w/ underground parking), it's time to move on to another NIMBY issue: capping the Ike with "tax free" federal funds.

Fine with the pool  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 2:30 PM

I'd like to thank the officials involved in making this decision for their time, work, and patience having to listen to all this bickering. Seeing the new facility will be a nice positive counterpoint to all the negativity that so frequently gets thrown at our civic volunteers.

Pool this from Oak Park IL  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 2:20 PM

Express your displeasure directly and loudly to the high school board at boe@oprfhs.org Also to the clerk of the board, Gail Kalmerton, email is gkalmerton@oprfhs.org ask Gail to forward your email to the pool selection committee. Emails to these folks would be more effective (less ineffective) than venting here. If they can't revamp existing pools, then eliminate swimming entirely. Let those who want to swim/dive use private alternatives.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 2:01 PM

A $50 million pool, natatorium, or whatever fancy term we're gonna use, *is* a luxury. A very expensive (in money and land) one at that, which does *not* benefit the majority of the HS students, let alone the community. In contrast, a sport like football benefits more than the team members. It brings the school and the community together. Same with basketball. But swimming? I just don't see that happening. Hence my opposition to be spend so much taxpayer money on this


Posted: January 16th, 2015 1:44 PM

OP Native perhaps has extra T and should be Na%uFFFDve. The primary mission of high school is to educate all of its students and if possible teach them thinking skills. To make it simple for you, if I am a dry cleaner and I clean your suit pants but not your jacket - is that a good job? Yes, parents and students have role but schools role is to identify and lead. Really can't believe you just asked the mission of the school - what is it? create a bunch of jocks who really never do much in life?

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 1:33 PM

"The sole onus you put on the HS for 'instructional deficits' for minorities is frankly ridiculous." If the HS isn't responsible for providing appropriate instruction for students in its district, who is? Certainly IL education law puts the onus on the district. Even the most resistant students, those with a BD diagnosis, are legally owed FAPE.

OP Native  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 1:14 PM

Transplant - then start using facts and not broad generalizations. Moreover, provide your own. The sole onus you put on the HS for "instructional deficits" for minorities is frankly ridiculous. Is anyone responsible for themselves? Further, are highs schools required to have ANY sports? So why have them at all? Not a radical position. Ask the city of Rockford in the 1970's. And no Speedway, I'm not calling the kettle black, even though OPT has stated he or she is.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 1:06 PM

Native - I've been willing to objectively discuss facts. The HS has compiled consistent data that shows instructional deficits that have not been successfully addressed. It's a very good school for white students, but an underperforming school for black students. High schools are not required to have pools, so any pool is a luxury. A $50 million pool is a very expensive luxury. I believe the school should use funds to address academic shortcoming before buying luxuries. Not a radical position.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 1:06 PM

@OP Native, isn't that calling the kettle black?

local voter  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 12:59 PM

Thanks Ralph & Sharon for your no vote. I respect and admire the d200 board members, they are friends and neighbors, which makes this action so painful to watch & difficult to understand. Years of study consistently show that this project is ill suited for this campus/community. The cost is too high, the benefits too few. Don't be afraid to admit that. Instead, develop a comprehensive plan for meeting the requirements of the entire building and student body.

OP Native  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 12:48 PM

Correction: "...unwillingness to objectively discuss facts."

OP Native  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 12:47 PM

Completely disagree with OP Transplant, who based on similar posts continues to try to filter this issue through narrow interests and racial divisiveness. Proponents dislike the idea of a referendum not for the ideas you state, but for what you generally represent which is narrow self interest and a willingness to objectively discuss facts. And spare me the achievement gap rhetoric. Spend some time really exploring the issue instead of relying on just what you read and see in the papers.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 12:23 PM

The reason proponents don't like the idea of a referendum is pretty clear. Most residents don't have a kid on the swim team, and don't particularly care if the HS teaches swimming, since it isn't required to. Why would swim parents want the entire community to vote on whether we should spend $40-50 million for a project that really benefits only a few dozen kids? I don't think this project has the remotest chance of surviving a referendum.

just wondering  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 11:02 AM

@OP baseball Mom ... not every topic has been discussed ad nauseam. For example, the pool selection recommendation is based on an off-campus site for; a) baseball, b) softball, or c) tennis. Despite months of deliberation by the committee, not one off-campus site has been identified. Even when asked during the last board meeting, the pool committee could not identify any possible site. Due diligence would have included at least a cursory survey of off-campus sites to assess feasibility.

Glenn from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 10:37 AM

Let's assume it is $40M and lasts 50 years. That is $800K per year without maintenance or operating costs. If 50 swim team members that is $16,000 per year per team member to have a swimming pool. Isn't that 1.6X tuition cost for out of district students.

Marty from OP  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 9:27 AM

Those Things That Are Best

OP baseball Mom  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 9:13 AM

@Bridgett I have attended many of these meetings and every idea that has been mentioned here (with the exception of the monorail!) has been discussed ad nauseam. That being said, I agree that the hired architects have not been helpful in proposing enough distinct design options.


Posted: January 16th, 2015 8:24 AM

Sorry but that's a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a pool.

OPRF Grad from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2015 7:57 AM

@ Mark: Architect and builder estimate a smaller pool saves 5% of project cost. A smaller pool does not shrink the building footprint substantially enough so that existing fields still fit. These are also very conservative cost estimates. Expectations are that total cost will be less than estimates, perhaps substantially, but without detailed plans, site, etc. that's impossible to confirm. $50M isn't going to happen. It will still be expensive, but I hope worth over a 50+ yr perspective.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 11:25 PM

@OPbaseball Mom, Why are the only two options no pool and $50 million pool? Yes, the current pools are beyond repair. But why oh why is there no compromise,regarding the *kind* of pool?

Lyle Langley from North Haverbrook  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 11:14 PM

Is there enough money left over for a monorail? You know, a town with money is a little like the mule with the spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 10:53 PM

@Boo. On a poor voter turnout election there is still many more people at the voting booth than there are commenters on the WJ or attendees at board meetings.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 10:48 PM

@Boo and OP ball Mom, totally disagree with you. Why shouldn't the taxpayers directly vote on what their money is being spent on? Why are you so afraid of a referendum? Do you not believe that the majority should be counted?

Mark from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 8:20 PM

If the new pool is 25 meters instead of 50 meters how much does that reduce the project cost? Also would the reduced footprint then allow the baseball fields to remain in place? Why does the new pool need to be 50 meters?

OP baseball Mom  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 7:43 PM

@Boo has a point. The people most informed on this issue think the facilities need to be rebuilt. Why have committees, boards and meetings open to public comment if you are are just going to resolve the issue via a referendum.

Robert Zeh from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 6:35 PM

I've lived in River Forest for 14 years now, and the m.o. for the school boards is clear and consistent. Plead poverty. Go to referendum to raise our taxes, explaining that otherwise our children will grow up artistically impoverished and unable to distinguish mauve from pink. Following the referendum, spend down the reserve on parking lots and landscaping, district headquarters, swimming pools, or other items that would never pass at a community wide election. Once the reserve is gone, repeat.

bsoudi from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 6:21 PM

Couple great points here. I hope this isn't about swim teams because that's a huge tax commitment for extracurriculars. The messaging for a referendum would make me think twice if I were on the board. "So you're telling me you need more of my money for education - but you spent $50 mil on a pool with no educational value?" Add in the obscene reserve amount accumulates and that's a tough sell. The pool could actually undermine real educational progress in the future.

Boo to referendum!  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 6:10 PM

Ruling by referendum is like letting the commenters to oakpark.com run the village! GLORY!

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 5:51 PM

When the costs of a new swim complex at the HS are so high and the necessity of this expenditure is questionable at best; it only seems reasonable that the decision on the pool itself and/or the many options available should fall on the taxpayers to decide in a referendum. Pushing a pool down our throats now will only hurt the HS in the future when the next referendum happens for hopefully a much more worthy cause and it is voted down because of poor decision making in the past.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 4:41 PM

@OPRF Grad, I disagree with you. We would not be having *this* conversation. We'd be having a pool conversation, but not a $50 million pool conversation.

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 3:03 PM

@ Kevin Peppard: Count me in for a couple of dollars

Down for the Count  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 2:58 PM

RichF: The new pools need to be twice as wide, twice as long, and twice as fabulous as the existing pools. Why?... Just because, that's why.

alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 2:53 PM

THIS IS STUPID!!! How much money did we spend on rebuilding an OPRF pool just a few years ago? How much did we spend to rebuild Ridgeland Commons' pool last year? How much did the "public" parking garage cost? And now we are going to have the teachers park on side streets so the residents can't. We still have a declining school system, outmoded field house and a Village, School Districts, and Park District more interested in spending, instead of working together for the benefit of the public.

RichF from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 2:27 PM

I have never seen anything talked about the old pools. Why can't the field house old pool areas be reconfigured to fit in the new pool?

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 2:19 PM

bsoudi - Schools are not required to have pools; most do not. Schools that don't have pools either don't field swimming/diving teams, or they train and compete offsite. Personally I think it's difficult to justify this expense, given that the HS has some glaring deficits in instruction that are not being addressed successfully. Swimming parents disagree.

bsoudi from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 1:59 PM

I know this train left the station a long time ago. But can someone point me to articles or statements that explain why a pool for high school students is necessary? An indoor pool would be great for the community at large, but seems like a luxury in an educational setting - especially at $40 mil. With all the fiscal and educational challenges in our community, is this the best use of our money? What does the community get back for our investment? What if we just mothballed the current pools?

OPRF Grad from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 1:08 PM

Bridgett - I believe we would be having this conversation regardless. The Board and D200 Staff have long desired a long term facility plan to upgrade classrooms, facilities, etc. The Board are the ones who, correctly or not, determined dealing with pools would facilitate action on the rest of the plan. Will it ever happen? Who knows. Mr. Peppard seems to contemplate legal action to stop the pool though D200 has indicated they have legal opinion supporting the authority to make it happen.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 12:11 PM

Would we be having this conversation if D200 didn't have $100+ million sitting around? Doubtful. Instead, we would be talking about a much more realistic cost for a pool. How about just admitting that you overtaxed the residents and business owners of Oak Park and River Forest for the last decade, and give us our money back. Then you wouldn't be tempted to continue to mismanage funds by entertaining the thought of a 50 million dollar pool.

Down for the Count  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 12:00 PM

I love how this sets the stage for a new critical need we didn't even know we had: a major league baseball stadium to complement our Olympic sized pool. And by making one contingent on the other, D200 brilliantly obfuscates any responsibility and accountability for their latest assault the taxpayers. The assertion that the shear enormity of the proposed Swim Palace justifies an expanded parking facility is just a slap in the face to follow up one-two punch in the gut D200 just rendered on OP.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 11:39 AM

@Dan from Oak Park: That legal action you speak of is called a Declaratory Judgment. It becomes ripe to file only after it becomes a non-hypothetical question, when they announce that they will definitely spend other money for construction. I'm also looking for such a lawyer. Give me a call, I'm in the phone book. To find the referendum statute, Google 105 ILCS 5/10-22.36

Dan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 11:24 AM

I thought a referendum was necessary if the structure was not part of the existing school structure. Given that part of the plan is to build an enclosed bridge to join school to pool, it sounds like the pool is a distinct structure to me (it wouldn't need a bridge otherwise). Any legal eagles in the community willing to file a motion with a judge to answer this question?

just wondering from OP  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 11:08 AM

@Steve from RF ... the primary proponent on the pool committee for looking at off-campus sites (still unidentified) along Madison St. in River Forest and for bypassing a referendum was Tom Cronin. Do you feel comfortable with the fact that Mr. Cronin has real estate interests along Madison St. in River Forest, which he did not publicly disclose to the pool committee? Do you wish to defer public representation to Mr. Cronin, and for elected D200 board members to defer due diligence?

Turnabout from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 10:01 AM

Fascinating hypocrisy in action. It was argued that putting lights on the Stadium Field would reduce transporting athletes to off campus practices thus increasing safety and reducing costs. Now it is decided that bussing teams to practices, home games, and of course away games (or 100% of field time) is more safe. What about the cost? Ridiculous. This is what happens when you pillage the taxpayers and have over $100mil in the bank. But its for the good of the "students".

Nearly $50M!  

Posted: January 15th, 2015 9:35 AM

And it won't even be half as nice as this.... http://fishduck.com/2015/01/50-million-later-oregon-students-rejoice-at-sight-of-new-student-rec-center/

Steve from RF  

Posted: January 14th, 2015 6:44 PM

it is my understanding that the pool decision need not go to referendum. It is my opinion that the pool (or future OPRF capital improvements) should not go to referendum. A pool committee spent a month reviewing the pool situation. The committee was carefully selected to represent various community interests and satisfy the the need for community input. With their work complete ist is now time for the Board to complete the task and get this pool project moving without delay.

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