By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School has received proposals from two firms, one of which will help determine what to do with its 80-year-old pools.
OPRF is expected to hire one this spring. The two firms — a Canadian company called Stantec and Wisconsin-based Water Technology Inc. — specialize in pool design and engineering. The hiring of a consultant comes as the school tries to comply with ever-changing state guidelines concerning pool safety, as well as ongoing maintenance issues that continue to arise.
OPRF's pools are well past the average lifespan (about 60 years), explained Robert Zummallen, OPRF's director of buildings and grounds. Both firms, he noted, have done the kind of structural analysis the high school needs to do.
The school has heard from concerned parents, students and community leaders about the age of OPRF's two swimming pools. Student swimmers have talked about the the pools' limitations during on-campus athletic meets. Earlier this year, OPRF suspended all home spring diving due to new federal and state safety regulations that went into effect — OPRF pools no longer have the proper depth for diving. The school's diving team had to find alternative locations outside the school.
Some community members have urged OPRF to partner with the Park District of Oak Park to use the district's pool facilities. Others have pushed OPRF to spend money to build a new pool facility on campus or elsewhere in River Forest or Oak Park.
But none of those options can be pursued until a consultant is hired and a proper analysis is done, school officials stress.
"I don't think it is just about diving and interscholastic swimming," said OPRF Athletic Director John Stelzer, who addressed the pool issue at a March 8 OPRF school board meeting.
"The reality is the pools are 85 years old. They're still a wonderful amenity to the school, but they're starting to get to the end of that life cycle, no matter what we do to them. And so I think it is a much broader picture," Stelzer said.
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