Chairman Johns Advocates for School Pool; Citizens Divided on Issue

| March 15, 2013 | 0 Comments | Education

School Board Chairman At-large Milton Johns (Credit: Prince William County Schools)

Chairman At-large Milt Johns spoke in favor of the pool as part of the 12th high school at the Mar. 13 Prince William County School Board meeting, while many concerned citizens weighed in during citizens’ time.

Johns explained that while the pool has been estimated to cost $10.5 million, that figure was provided through sources other than Prince William County Schools, which has provided no price to date.

However, assuming $10.5 million is accurate, Johns said that would amount to $500,000 per year to pay off the bond debt. The $10.5 million would not be paid outright.

“All of our schools are paid through debt bonds, so the same way you pay your mortgage over 15 or 30 years, we typically pay off our schools over 20 years,” Johns said.

Johns also said that $500,000 was relatively small in context of the entire PWCS annual budget. He added that the cost could be  somewhat offset by using the pool for lessons and inviting swim teams outside the county to use the practice lanes.

Johns explained that the board would get a chance to look at the 12th high school with or without a pool. While the Board does not generally vote on specific items, School Board members could vote against building the school with the inclusion of that added facility. In regards to the overall price, he also said they could look at engineering features to reduce costs as they did for the Nokesville K-8 School.

However, Johns came out strongly in favor of the pool. Besides serving the 700-plus swim team members in the county, he said the pool could be used as part of the physical education curriculum, saying, “What folks haven’t mentioned, but will be a great asset at this school, is the ability for everyone at this school to take swimming in Phys Ed.”

He also touted the benefit of the pool to the special education and disabled community, which the 12th high school would serve.

However, the strongest support for the swimming pool came from the swim parents and coaches, who spoke during citizens’ time both at the beginning and end of the meeting.

“I believe that the cost is justified by the healthy lifestyle that the sport promotes,” said Brad Benson, whose granddaughter swims for Woodbridge Senior High School.

Benson said that while the attendance at swim meets rivals that of a football game, swimming is a sport which includes more diverse participants.

Another Lake Ridge resident pointed out that every single high school has a swim team, yet those teams are forced to rely on county rather than school facilities. One mother of a swim team participant commented on how people swim for exercise well into old age, and detailed how it is a sport which causes few injuries.

However, citizens also spoke in opposition to the pool. One educator asked School Board members, “How does it impact student learning?” She said while Superintendent Stephen Walts said the budget was “cut to the bone,” that was not evident in the spending on school architecture and the Kelly Center.

“Our classrooms are overcrowded; we have the highest class sizes in the state. They’re understaffed. While we’re planning to build a swimming pool? Do you guys know what a kick in the teeth that is for morale?” she asked.

Moreover, despite Johns’ explanation of bond debt, the most vocal opponents of the pool appear from their writing and petitions to understand the bond process.

Vocal citizens, like Kim Simons of the PWCS Reform Blog, have stated that the problem is the bond debt the county would incur and carry year after year. And some citizens say the $500,000 annual fee is more than PWCS could afford.

One Prince William special education teacher, who commented on Our Schools Facebook Page, explained that her special education students need teacher’s aides and other resources more than they need a pool.

 

© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education

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