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updated: 10/21/2011 5:17 PM

District 128 swimming pools reopen without drain repairs

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  • District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea

    District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea

  • Video: Congressional debate on drains

  • Video: News report on drain law


Closed for a few weeks because of safety concerns, the swimming pools at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools have been allowed to reopen, District 128 officials announced Friday.

Lawyers working for the district and the Illinois Department of Public Health reached a settlement that extends the deadline for federally mandated drain repairs to June 1, 2012.

The district missed the original Oct. 1 target, in part, because top administrators weren't aware of the deadline until this summer.

The reprieve, which was granted Friday, means students and community swim teams can swim at the schools immediately.

"We are ecstatic that our students and communities will be able to use our pools again while we work toward a final compliance solution with the IDPH," District 128 Superintendent Prentiss Lea said in an email. "Knowing that our students will be back in our pools today makes the collective time, energy and effort directed toward this effort well worth it."

Although the drains haven't been fixed, District 128 officials insist the pools are safe for student use.

"(The health department) would not have approved reopening our pools if a clear and present danger existed to our students and community members," District 128 spokeswoman Mary Todoric said in an email.

The law requiring potentially dangerous drains to be replaced with safer models was adopted in 2007, and a 2010 state law established a deadline.

The rules apply to pools and spas at schools, park districts, hotels, condominium complexes and other public facilities.

District 128 officials said they didn't learn of the Oct. 1 deadline until a few months ago because of an internal communication breakdown.

The needed repair work could cost as much as $125,000, officials have said. A proposal must be approved by the state health department before work can begin, and that process could take weeks, officials have said.

Several District 128 repair plans already have been rejected.

The schools' girls swim teams were forced to practice and compete elsewhere this month because of the closures. The pools also were off-limits to students in physical education classes and community swim groups.

The new deadline means the Libertyville and Vernon Hills High girls swim teams can finish their seasons at their home pools. The athletes had been practicing at Mundelein High and at Stevenson High in Lincolnshire.

The reprieve also allows Vernon Hills High to host a Nov. 12 sectional competition that was set to be relocated to Lake Forest High because of the swim ban, Athletic Director Brian McDonald said.

"We're thrilled for the kids," McDonald said. "We want our kids swimming in our pool."

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