Dist. 86 favors 10-lane pool at Central
Last updated 10/16/2019 at 11:59pm | View PDF
The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board has given the green light for a 10-lane pool at Hinsdale Central, following administrators’ recommendation but departing from a pre-referendum pledge to build a six-lane swimming facility to match the one at Hinsdale South.
A majority of board members voiced support for moving ahead with designs for a larger Central pool, saying it made sense from both a programmatic and economic standpoint.
Board member Kathleen Hirsman described how her position shifted from initially opposing a new Central pool to now backing a 10-lane-by-40-meter pool after hearing from Central administrators how a six-lane pool would force some aquatic courses into classrooms.
“The notion that we have to cut our instructional time for programs that are completely dependent on in-pool experience struck a chord with me,” Hirsman said. “It doesn’t come as much solace to me to say, ‘I kept a promise,’ and now we have a pool that’s not big enough to meet the instructional needs of the students.”
Board President Nancy Pollak apologized to anyone feeling betrayed by the board’s action but said her position was based on the district’s long-term benefits.
“This particular decision has implications for the next 60 years,” Pollak said. “Based on research and the opinion of the experts, the need for the larger pool for now and for the future has been demonstrated.”
Board member Kevin Camden, the staunchest opponent to the larger pool plan, said he was not comfortable shifting from the “political calculus” that led the board to promise same-sized pools to gain referendum support.
“To my mind, nothing has changed ... that should cause me to change my vote to a larger pool for Central, “ Camden said. “It never had to do with equity. It had to do with representations that I made as a board member to the community.”
Board member Keith Chval, chair of the facilities committee, told his colleagues that the committee voted to recommend construction of a 10-lane pool at its Sept. 3 meeting.
Before the successful $139 million facilities referendum in April, the board scaled back its plans for the new Central pool from 10 to six lanes as a concession to opponents, for whom the disparity between the schools’ proposed pools was considered a primary complaint. The additional $3.5 million cost for a 10-lane pool can be offset by value engineering, Lance Tritsch of Pepper Construction told the board. He laid out several design adjustments to save $1.27 million on the project, and district architect Rick Cozzi of Arcon told the board that another $3 million in potential pool savings have been identified since the facilities committee meeting.
“That’s part of the process. This is a fluid process,” Cozzi said. “We will continue to refine and find ways to make sure the project comes in on budget. That’s all of our jobs, and in the end, we will be there.”
Several board members said they would act to reverse the decision if more detailed designs in November project a higher cost that could impact other facility improvements.
Board members Cynthia Hanson and Eric Held both expressed support for an eight-lane compromise. Held said he could go along with a 10-lane pool as long as the cost remains in line with the budget.
“I can support (a 10-lane pool), using, however, that escape hatch in November,” he said.
Hanson would not sign off on 10 lanes.
Held said he was sensitive to the opinion among some community members that the decision is a violation of trust but stressed that the board needs to trust its professional educators and engineers.
Hinsdale Central Principal Bill Walsh read from the administration’s recommendation, saying a 10-lane pool would make swim team practices more efficient, provide more pool access to community swim groups and avoid displacing pool-based courses to classrooms to make room for freshman swim instruction.
“A 10-lane-by-40 pool would enable the grade nine students and the aquatics and/or lifeguarding classes to use the pool simultaneously. The two classes will be to swim the width of the pool versus the length of the pool,” Walsh said.
The tension surrounding the issue was evidenced early on when, following the audience communication period, Camden’s frustrations boiled over concerning accusations of a lack of board transparency posted on social media.
“For those of you that have complained that we’re not transparent and we don’t do enough by way of broadcasting board meetings and other things, shame on you!” Camden exclaimed. “Listen to what board members say at the board meetings.
“We’ve all wrestled with this,” he said later. “Nobody arrived at a quick decision.”