The determined effort by Englewood High School students to save the swimming pool didn’t pan out because the school board voted unanimously Feb. 13 to include it on the list of structures to go down under the wrecking ball this summer.
The demolition is the first phase of the $42 million bond-funded project to transform the Englewood High School site into a state-of-the-art seventh- through 12th-grade campus.
The original proposal was to retain and upgrade the auditorium, field house and pool. Planners included $1 million to renovate and modernize the pool that was initially labeled as being in poor condition.
Then, an in-depth inspection showed additional problems and estimates are it would cost more than $3 million to have the pool conform to Americans with Disabilities rules and bring it up to code.
The issue was the subject of a special school board meeting Feb. 13.
“Everyone loves the pool and it isn’t the intention of the school board to eliminate swimming teams,” said Scott Gorsky, board president. “However, we don’t see how we can spend that much money on a 50-year-old facility. That just isn’t fiscally responsible.”
Scott Neff, one of the leaders of the students’ save-the-pool movement, said he felt the pool means a lot to the community. He said he and the other supporters were asking for a chance to raise public awareness and come up with a financial plan to save the pool.
“The school board may look at the pool as a money pit, but Englewood students look at the pool as a point of school pride,” the sophomore said.
School officials learned about the higher cost estimate to upgrading the pool about two weeks ago and began considering demolishing it.
It was last week when Neff and fellow swimmer Ryan Kloewer heard about the potential pool demolition and launched the save-the-pool effort.
In five days, they collected more than 500 signatures on a petition. On Feb. 13, they held a rally outside the pool. About 50 students attended the rally that was recorded on video and placed it on YouTube.
Neff asked the video be played before he addressed the school board at the Feb. 13 meeting.
Kloewer said everyone loves the pool, and the video showed how serious EHS students were about saving it. He said the students feel there are ways to reduce the renovation costs so the pool can be saved.
School Superintendent Brian Ewert addressed the issue during the Feb. 13 meeting. He said one problem is the pool currently doesn’t meet code and doesn’t comply with all health regulations. However, because it has been in existence for 50 years, it is allowed to operate. But as soon as anything other than routine maintenance is done, the pool must then meet all codes and regulations. He also said it cost about $75,000 a year to maintain the pool and, with that money, he could hire two teachers.
He said the ideal situation would be to build a new pool on land on the site of the new campus. He asked the school board to consider setting aside the $1 million as seed money so the students and the community will have the opportunity to raise the additional $4 million needed to build a new pool.
One issue raised during the discussion was the lack of pool use by Englewood students. Gorsky said the only Englewood students using the pool are about 50 members of the boys and the girls swim teams. He noted a private swim team does rent the pool for $40 an hour and uses it extensively.
There was talk about trying to generate more Englewood student use and it was noted there is a requirement to have adults certified as life guards and swim instructors on duty for swim classes.. Teacher Tracy Lonn said she was working on her certification.
“If having aquatics classes so there will be more use by Englewood students will save the pool, I’ll change my job, give up teaching Spanish and be a physical education teacher specializing in aquatics,” she said.
However, after the lengthy discussion, the school board voted unanimously to include the pool on the demolition schedule and to set aside the $1 million for as long as 24 months as seed money for a fund to build a new pool.
Gene Turnbull, school board member, said before the vote that his primary interest was to enrich the minds of the student in Englewood schools.
“It is my intent to use every dime I can get my hand on to accomplish that goal,” he said.
However, the action didn’t please Neff.
“I am discouraged that the school board didn’t consider our ideas,” he said after the meeting. “The board never even gave us an opportunity to explain our proposal and our plan to save the pool. I am discouraged right now but I will continue working to try to save our pool.”