OPRF considering options for new swimming pool

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Oak Park River Forest High School's current swimming pool. Photo credit: Oakpark.com

The Oak Park and River Forest High School Board continues to seek a proposal the community will support for a new swimming pool. On Jan. 19, school officials abandoned their most recent plan to borrow $17.5 million to pay for the construction of new swimming pool at OPRF High School.

This plan also included using up to $20 million of district reserves to help pay for demolition of a parking garage on Scoville Ave. and Lake St., the anticipated building site for the two-story aquatics center.

After the board declared its plan to borrow the money to pay for the pool by selling non-referendum bonds, a group of citizens collected more than 4,000 signatures that required the plan be placed on the March 16 ballot for voter approval.

A challenge to the petition was declared unsuccessful earlier this month, and the board voted to rescind its financing plan.

According to the Chicago Tribune, after abandoning its funding plan, OPRF High School board members and administrators met to determine their next steps in replacing the schools two swimming pools, each of which is almost 90 years old.

“We need to create new opportunities for input and community conversation,” said Board President Jeff Weissglass at the Jan. 28 school board meeting. “We’re coming up with a plan to be able to do that. Clearly one of the messages we’re hearing is we need a two-way conversation about where we are and where we’re going.”

The OPRF community is now having questions about the project and having the desire to provide more input is influencing the school to take the time to consider all options for constructing a new swimming pool. Options include an off-site swimming pool possibly partnered with the Park District of Oak Park. Concerns that have been raised by opponents of the plan include the fact that the proposed demolition of the parking garage is, in fact, a parking garage used during the day by OPRF teachers and staff. If the parking garage were to be demolished, it would be unclear where teachers and staff would park.

Legat Architects, the contracted architect for the pool project, has completed schematic design for the proposal and will assist as requested during the next phase, according to the Tribune.

“We have a board-approved project,” Weissglass said. “No more work is being done at the moment. A big issue, if we were going to still go forward with that project, is solving the parking problem.”

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