Shall the Board of Education of Oak Park and River Forest Consolidated High School District Number 200, Cook County, Illinois, build and equip a swimming pool addition to replace the existing 88-year-old swimming pools at the Oak Park and River Forest High School Building; alter, repair and equip said School Building to improve the learning, performing arts and locker room spaces therein; improve the site thereof; build and equip a parking garage to replace the existing parking garage; and issue bonds of said School District in an amount not to exceed $25,000,000 for the purpose of paying costs thereof?I'm already fatigued. The ongoing community debate about the high school's elderly, decrepit swimming pools has 2 months until we vote and I'm already over it. If you don't agree with raising taxes to modernize the school's infrastructure that's ok. We'll all push the button Yes or No and finally be able to see where everybody stands. But it's turned into a nasty, negative, bitter argument from the opposition side. There's no need for it. Rather than a rational discussion, many have turned the issue into a vast, wide complaint about the school district's governance, finances, and the general high state of property taxes in the village.
Anybody who has been inside the current facility understands that not only are these pools not state of the art, they're functionally obsolete. They're leaking water, don't meet current safety or accessibility standards, and they certainly don't project an attitude of providing a quality educational environment for our children. The current pools are an embarrassment.
A few individuals across-the-board don't believe in higher taxes, or swimming facilities for high schools, or maybe they're just grumpy. They've taken advantage of the opportunity to loudly complain that pool supporters are a vocal, special interest minority who is creating a massive boondoggle. But I find these opponents to be a vocal minority in their own right. We're a progressive town who generally values not just education but holistic education. We don't just support the swimming program and water polo but the music program, drama, robotics, chess club. We see learning as taking place on the athletic field and in the band room and we want our students to have access and opportunity beyond the classroom.
The district's own research of 300 adults via telephone survey (cell phones were included) showed opinions very mixed not only on the importance of replacing the pools but which pool rebuild option would be best. Responses most likely to favor the current plan included younger voters and renters. Some of the very progressive people who will be coming out in large numbers to support Hillary Clinton. If they don't get ballot fatigue and reach the referendum questions, they could very well counter the older, budget-minded voters who express negative attitudes about the pool. Time will tell. My gut is that it could be very close.
I have no dog in this fight other than two elementary-age children who may one day benefit from having a new pool. They enjoy swimming, but their future participation on the diving team, etc. is an open question. Rather, the pool referendum is indicative of the type of community we want to live in. Like so many of our political debates these days, please don't give in to the negativity and naysaying that is so pervasive. The steady stream of complaints about the topic represents the worst, most-cynical attitude towards repairs that should have happened decades ago. Why weren't they completed? Probably because of the political headwind that the issue faces. Our current administration has been brave enough and bold enough to tackle it. If you're an OPRF voter, I encourage you to read the FAQ and other posted materials and vote for something positive. I've attended meetings, I've followed along, please don't let those shouting "no" have the day. That's not the kind of vision we need. The new pool doesn't just benefit swimmers or aquatics students. It includes new spaces for the performing arts, new locker rooms, and a new parking garage while providing a 40 meter pool. It's a sound plan that has been through a long process.
Vote Yes on November 8.