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updated: 9/23/2011 5:59 PM

Dist. 128 officials heading to Springfield about pools

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  • District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea

    District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea

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With the swimming pools at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools facing closure Oct. 1 because of safety concerns, District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea and others will visit Springfield on Monday to personally discuss the matter with state health officials.

Lea also has enlisted the aid of state lawmakers to lobby on the district's behalf and request a deadline extension from the state public health department that would give the District 128 staff more time to replace potentially dangerous drains in the two pools.

State Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan and state Rep. Carol Sente of Vernon Hills have sent a joint letter to the state office, asking for the deadline to be shifted to Jan. 1, Lea said.

Sente has called the governor's office and the state health department on the district's behalf, too.

"At this point, it's about solving a situation expeditiously and not penalizing a group excessively," Sente said Friday. "Let's get the problem solved. Let's not get caught up in bureaucracy."

District 128 officials were required to replace pool drains with devices that meet safety standards under a 2007 federal law and regulations added to Illinois' books in 2010. Park districts and other schools with pools faced similar mandates.

But Lea and other top District 128 administrators were not aware of the state's Oct. 1 deadline for the repairs until this summer because of an internal communications breakdown.

District leaders and engineers submitted a pair of plans to the state health department this summer, but both were rejected. Lea and his team will present a third proposal in person Monday.

If the pools close Oct. 1, the girls swim teams will have to practice and compete elsewhere. Additionally, students set to use the pools during physical education classes will not be able to swim, nor will people who use the pools as part of community programs.

Lake Barrington resident Cathy Lehmann's son, Riley, is a member of the Cats Aquatics swim club, which uses both District 128 pools. Already commuting a long distance to participate in the program, Lehmann said she may have to pull Riley from the team if they have to swim elsewhere.

"It's pretty disappointing," she said.

District officials won't replace the drains without prior state approval, Lea said, because they could be fined if they take unsanctioned action.

Lea and other District 128 staffers met with concerned parents and community members about the matter this week. He took personal responsibility for the communications failure and the lack of repairs.

Lea, the district's engineer and its aquatic engineer are heading to Springfield to meet with health department engineers. A reprieve won't be granted Monday, but Lea hopes the sit-down will lead to the pools staying open.

"I think the chances are better," he said.

The District 128 school board is scheduled to discuss the matter Monday night. That session is set for 7 p.m. at Vernon Hills High.

More information about the issue is available on the district's website,