School Board, BOCS Reach No Resolution about Pool

| August 7, 2013 | 0 Comments | News

Prince William County Board of County Supervisors met with School Board members Aug. 6 to discuss a possible collaborative solution to the controversial inclusion of a pool at the 12th high school; however, they were unable to come to a firm agreement when they adjourned.

Even after BOCS Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart offered hypothetically to have the county pay all operation and maintenance costs for the pools, some School Board members still felt the cost to them was too high.

School Board Opposition

Four out of eight of the School Board members were opposed to the School Division funding the pool facility (Satterwhite, Keen, Trenum and Bell) at a cost of $10.5 million in a 20-year bond to be paid off at an average annual cost of $722,000 plus another $7-800,000 in maintenance and operational costs per year.

“We come before you every year for a budget,” said Gainesville School Board Representative Alyson Satterwhite, “and we’re grilled on how we’re spending money every year. We cut budgets and supplies. This year we gave our teachers raises, and we want to continue to give our teachers raises.”

Satterwhite said those funds would be better spent to reduce class sizes.

“I know it is a minimum impact” to reduce every class by one person, Satterwhite said, but she argued teachers would have one less test to grade every week and one less parent-teacher conference to schedule and one less child who needed attention.

According to School Board Chairman At-Large Milt Johns and Superintendent Steve Walts, a minimum of 70 percent of maintenance and operational costs could be negated by selling the use of lanes to private swim teams, clubs, lessons and opening the facility to the public.

“The economic concept is that we will reduce swim fees by reducing lanes. These savings would be spread division-wide,” Johns said.

One Pool Not Enough

Woodbridge School Board Representative Steven Keen said he believes building one pool facility is not enough to accommodate everyone, but he did not want the School Board involved in the business of building more pool facilities.

“We need to build six of them I think,” Keen said. “The idea that it is a division-wide pool, that is pie-in-the-sky thinking. The number of lanes needed far exceeds what is needed.”

Unless there is a significant change in how revenue is provided to the School Board, Keen said the county should be the one to fund facilities like pools.

“We have no control over the revenue that comes into us,” said Keen. “The most critical things in front of us are compensation for our teachers and classroom sizes.”

He said the BOCS should provide those funds, even if it means raising taxes.

School Pool Different than Chinn, Freedom Center

Chairman Johns asserted that the pool would offer numerous advantages of having an aquatic facility in the 12th high school; members of both boards were able to demonstrate where that model is imperfect.

Recreational Services Director Tracy Hannigan said aquatic centers, like Chinn, which earn back their operation costs, are also offering members other health club amenities to offset pool costs and are open full-time to the public.

“My expectation is we probably wouldn’t have students and community folks at the same time,” Johns said, although there would be a separate community entrance built.

Superintendent Steven Walts explained the pool facility would be “located at the 12th high school,” but would not be for the 12th high school alone.

However, while both boards’ members liked the mid-county location, they doubted whether students across the division would gain access to the pool, or if it was essentially more a community facility placed in a high school.

Brentsville District Supervisor Wally Covington said that he did not believe it could serve all the needs of a school system, and said he liked the model they used with the Freedom Center of working with a university. The joint venture between the county, Commonwealth of Virginia, the University of George Mason and City of Manassas kept costs down for taxpayers, which is why he proposed the BOCS look into co-funding a pool facility with NOVA Community College.

Martin Nohe of the Coles District said it is all tax-payers’ dollars anyway, and he would be in favor of building the pool facility at the 12th high school if everyone felt it was the best location and would be less expensive than building a separate county facility.

Jenkins inferred he would prefer a pool targeted toward firefighters and police officers before building one specifically to meet the needs of students.

School Pool Could Provide Equity to Students

However, Lillie Jessie of the Occoquan District offered a compelling argument for having the pool at the 12th high school, even if the school board needed to fund it.

Jessie said she grew up during segregation and never learned to swim because swimming pools were only provided for the “elite” white kids. She said, to this day, she is still afraid of the water and would not want any other student to grow up that way with a lack of opportunity, especially since not learning to swim puts his or her life at risk.

Jessie said she was “surprised” that she approved of the pool because she is so curriculum-driven, but she also rejects the idea that school is only about acquiring “core” reading and math skills. She said she has always supported multiple intelligences, saying encouraging a child’s talent in art or sports helps that child to connect to school and learning.

Betty Covington of the Potomac District too thought a school pool could save a life and prevent tragedies such as the one that occurred at Lake Montclair where a mother and her 6-year-old daughter drowned,

Boards to Maintain Open Dialog

The boards agreed to meet again with two or more members of each board, if they elect to attend.

Members of both boards agreed that they should meet more often to discuss issues that affect both boards, but did not set any concrete schedule.

© 2013, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

Facebook Comments
Print Friendly

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: News

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

banner ad