HC pool space probably won't sit vacant

The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board seems willing to spend $870,000 to fill in the old pool at Hinsdale Central to create a flexible space, if the project can be paid for out of surplus operating funds.

At a finance committee meeting in April, Josh Stephenson, chief financial officer, suggested using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for the project. That idea met with some resistance when the full board met April 22.

Another look at the budget, however, indicates those funds will not be needed, board members learned at their May 13 meeting.

“The recommendation at this time is that we would just use the operational funds from fiscal year 21 to fund this project,” Stephenson said.

According to officials, the new 6,600-square-foot space could be used for student testing, credit recovery work, interventions and collaboration. It also could serve as an additional lunch location if social distancing requirements continue in the fall. Ultimately the goal for the space is to create a gymnastics or wrestling gym there and convert the existing gymnastics or wrestling gym for instructional use as outlined in the master facilities plan.

Board members wondered how much the flexible space, which would be finished by mid-October, will be used.

“We find that we don’t have enough time and we often don’t have enough space in the school buildings to do what we would like to do,” said Chris Covino, assistant superintendent for academics. “Any additional space that is granted for us to even think about for flexible learning or for intervention purposes or moving classrooms to different spaces and spreading out students would be a tremendous asset.”

Principal Bill Walsh agreed, noting the shortage of conference rooms and other program space at Central, which has been exacerbated by facilities projects.

“Three years of construction have really limited our ability to operate a school at Hinsdale Central,” he said.

The project would involve filling the pool with structural foam and covering it with continuous resilient flooring. The air handling units would be replaced and the locker rooms would be gutted, but the bleachers would remain. The exact cost of the project will be known once bids are opened.

Hinsdale South’s pool will be under construction during the 2021-22 school year and the plan had been for the school’s swim and dive and water polo teams to use Central’s old pool for practices. But the IHSA will allow both schools’ teams to practice together in Central’s new facility, Superintendent Tammy Prentiss said.

Bids will be available at the June 23 meeting for board members to approve, if they choose to proceed with the project.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean