OPRF poised to hire swimming pool consultant

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

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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Jerry Hudson from Phoenix  

Posted: March 21st, 2012 2:14 AM

I can think of three former Huskie football players who made it to the NFL off the top of my head: Hall of Famer George Trafton, Jerry Sullivan who was a starting offensive lineman for the Browns throughout the '80's and, more recently, Eric Kumerow, who took OPRF to the state championship game and was a first round draft choice for Miami. None of that has any bearing on constructing a new pool, which should be of the highest priority.


Posted: March 20th, 2012 8:52 PM

When is the last times the pool's have been shut down during the school year to do emergency maintenance in the last 15 years?


Posted: March 20th, 2012 5:03 PM

@oprf student, I'd assume that they'd replace the pool after two years since that's what they did with the incorrectly installed turf (installed by someone's brother-in-law, or some other crony relationship). That was the point of my post.

oprf student  

Posted: March 20th, 2012 4:53 PM

@OPRF Dad, why on earth would you assume that the school would replace the pool after 2 years when it hasn't been so for 85 of the past ones? @Parent, the filtering processes DON'T work, and the Chicago river holds water, does that mean you would swim in it? And there are repairs to pool almost every year, last year we had no pool, and this year they were drained and refilled because the filtration in the pools is terrible and it doesn't do its job.


Posted: March 20th, 2012 10:46 AM

Awesome! Let's see if the district can have a new pool put in only to replace it two years later - kinda like they did with the field turf. This is back when they hired a crony's business to do the work, they did a bad job such that the turf needed to be replaced, and the original company went out of business. But hey, that only cost about $400,000. After the Village Board, D97 and D200 then the Park District are the uncontrolled spenders in this community.

another parent  

Posted: March 20th, 2012 7:03 AM

Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't mean it hasn't happened.


Posted: March 20th, 2012 12:39 AM

I've never heard of either one of the OPRF pools being down due to maintenance. Except for the mandatory drain upgrades required by the state or feds. With proper maintenance and upkeep, a pool could last for 100 plus years.

another parent  

Posted: March 19th, 2012 8:25 PM

The pools are old and they DO NOT work "just fine" anymore than a car that is 20 years past its expected life works "just fine". You may be able to get that car to go down the road but it burns gas and oil, needs constant repairs, and you're never sure what's going to go wrong next. And, to the best of my knowledge, swimming is required - which sounds like an imperitive to me.


Posted: March 18th, 2012 9:54 PM

If the pools can hold water and the filtering processes work, then whats the big problem? They seem to be just fine. Do we really need a consultant to help us spend money to figure out they are old, and they work just fine? I am a bit confused here.

polo fan  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 9:39 PM

With all the money spent on football it would be nice if the team didn't suck every year. At least the swimming and polo teams have winning records.

Get Real from OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 9:21 PM

Just a few points...(1) I'm not convinced that this is any kind of "educational imperative," (2) I'm not convinced that the new pools will be "available to the public" (the current ones are available only on a very limited schedule) so don't push it (3) Football isn't the enemy, (4) OPRFHS has plenty of $, so there better not be any whining, and (5) parents advocating transparently for their own priorities without regard to the rest of the village is SO last year (pre-D97 referendum)...

BLANK from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 6:55 PM

Getting a new pool would cure the community of throwing money into a black whole of repairs. A new pool for Oak Park River Forest high school is the best way to solve so many different problems. Just look at this in a bigger picture, there's no need to be myopic about the situation when clearly there is a much larger picture around it.

BLANK from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 6:51 PM

(cont.) as well. Teaching our kids how to swim, so that they can go have fun in the water when older should be a big deal. It's important for PE as well, I personally know that only half the kids in every swim class actually know how to stay afloat, not swim, but stay afloat. That should be alerting everyone, because that's a problem. A new pool offers better chances to succeed in learning how to save your own life if need be.

BLANK from Oak Park   

Posted: March 18th, 2012 6:47 PM

Look at the bigger picture and stop fighting like teenagers. If OPRf got a new pool, a great pool, the WHOLE public could use it for any one of their own benefits. There is no reason for bashing the sport of football, but there is reason for questioning the politics in its funding. Swimming is an important program for the high school, as shown by the results at the state meet, but also swimming for the public is just as important (cont. ->)

OPRF Student  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 5:19 PM

As an OPRF swimmer, I can say first hand that the pools, both East and West are COVERED with grime,the amount of deck space is barely enough to fit a dual meet, and the air quality is so atrocious that I, and others who part take in swimming as a sport have coughed so hard for lack of clean air that we couldn't even breath. In regards to the comment below about the football team coming in to the pool to relax, believe me, the pool at OPRF is the last place I would come to cool off and relax.

OPRF parent  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 5:07 PM

That was supposed to be "There isn't anything faux about the benefits of swimming"

OPRF parent  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 5:05 PM

My reference to football had to do with the amount of resources that go into that program compared to other sports, including swimming. And you may not see it but there is anything "faux" about the benefits of swimming and other "minor" sports that also build teamwork etc etc etc and, that, yes, once experienced in school, may become part of a healthy lifestyle.

Swim and H2O Polo - YES from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 4:23 PM

Unfortunately, it can be about "our kids" and swimming AND "our kids" and water polo. So what! Does that make it any less valuable to others who aren't in the swim or water polo program and want it for "their" reasons? You aren't suggesting that other sport families are not about "their kids and their sport"? Of course they are and why shouldn't they?


Posted: March 18th, 2012 3:56 PM

@OPRF Parent. I was simply responding to your posts regarding why the OPRF kids need swimming in PE in order to not drown (1:42). Zupke is just having fun (fyi, it's called sarcasm!). In my 1:39 post I noted the importance of athletics. You were the one who started with blasting football! Just be honest and, like Get Real's post, admit that all of your interest is about your kids and swimming! But don't knock other sports or stress the faux importance of the pools with the ed program at OPRF!

OPRF parent #2 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 3:35 PM

Unfortunately and Ghost, does the saying "Wide Lawns, Narrow Minds" mean anything to you. Our children choose different avenues to "expend energy, learn teamwork and discipline and work hard to achieve". One sport is not any better than another. Bottom line, the pools and pool areas are in terrible shape and our athletes and students deserve better. Everyone will benefit.

Swim and H2O Polo - YES from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 3:29 PM

Football, that great Olympic Sport! Oh wait, that is football as in soccer. Oh yeah, "American Football" is NOT an Olympic Sport like Swimming AND Water Polo which are sports played and "valued" the world over. How many OPRF football players went on to the NFL? I would guess "zero". Let's cover the stands out back and dig up that field and put in a modern enclosed pool and the football team can team up with the part district as all they need is a flat dirt to get their concussions.

OPRF parent  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 2:33 PM

just because YOUR kid doesn't care about swimming doesn't mean it doesn't have value to any other kid. As to the essential values of football - please let's not forget those wonderful concussions that can lead to all sorts of other problems. I'm all for teamwork - especially the sort that enables members of the community to think beyond their own personal needs. Surely football and wrestling aren't the only (or even the best) paths to teamwork.


Posted: March 18th, 2012 2:29 PM

@Ghost. And don't forget the key math skills necessary for Fantasy Football drafts, etc!!

Ghost of Zuppke from Oak Park  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 2:14 PM

Unfortunately is correct. Football is critical, because it's just like life. No, rather football IS life. The rest is just meaningless details, especially soccer. Pools are great places for football players to cool off after a hot day of practice. And football is also a life long activity that improves health...once one is done playing, you have a workout regimen, and the math skills needed to figure out point spreads.


Posted: March 18th, 2012 1:39 PM

@OPRF Parent. I'm with "Get Real." True, swimming is part of the PE program, but, per my OPRF kids, it is hardly taken seriously. And when you have one PE teacher and 30 teenage kids - do you honestly believe that any helpful instruction on swimming is taking place? And football is critical, like wrestling or other athletics, because it provides a great opportunity to expend energy, learn teamwork and discipline, and how to work hard to achieve - all impt life lessons for teens!

OPRF Parent  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 11:42 AM

Acutally, the pools are most important for the kids who DON'T swim and may not know how to swim. Swimming is part of the PE program and I, for one, think its a great idea that kids learn how to swim - at least enough to decrease the risk of drowning. Also, swimming can be a life long activity that improves health. Can you say the same for football?

Get Real from OP  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 10:47 AM

@OPRF Parent: Pools are "an important part of the educational program at OPRF"? Seriously? You must have kids that swim. Fair enough. I agree that the consultants recommendations will only support what has already been decided....hopefully, that has SOMETHING to do with sharing resources across the community (e.g., Park district's Ridgeland common project).

OPRF parent  

Posted: March 18th, 2012 9:17 AM

The pools are more than "an amenity". They are an important part of the educational program at OPRF. Hiring an outside firm to do an analysis sounds like a good step. The big question however will be if the public will get to see the report. Sadly, my expectation is the HS will cherry pick a few statements that support what they want to do anyway, but otherwise keep the report buried. Can we count on the WJ to make sure it becomes public? After all, its being paid for with tax $$.

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