After Palatine-Schaumburg District 211 voted last month to spend $15 million on new swimming pools at all five of its high schools, some parents in neighboring Northwest Suburban High School District 214 are wondering why the same isn't being done in their district.
Only three out of six high schools in District 214 have swimming pools, although with an $11 million renovation at Buffalo Grove High School soon to get under way, that count will be down to two for the next school year.
Rolling Meadows, Prospect and Hersey high schools do not have swimming pools, leaving their swimming, diving and water polo teams to practice either at another District 214 school or at the Arlington Heights Park District's Olympic Aquatic Center. Swimming is not a part of physical education at the schools without pools.
Several parents last week questioned the District 214 school board about why they were spending so much money to renovate one pool instead of installing pools at schools that don't have them.
"By denying three out of six schools a pool you deny the athletic potential of swimmers, divers and water polo players at all of our schools," said Prospect High School parent Kathleen Gabriel.
Gabriel, who has had three children on swimming and water polo teams at Prospect, said it isn't just about sports but also about teaching students lifesaving water skills during gym class. She pointed out that the district's quest to get new artificial turf on its football fields was carried out quickly and aggressively, with five of the six schools partnering with local park districts or organizations and installing new fields within a few years of the plan.
The school board does not respond to public comment during meetings, but at a discussion about pools in late 2012 Superintendent David Schuler told the board that parent concerns are "fair," but installing new pools would be an expensive project requiring significant spending reductions elsewhere.
A Prospect swimmer told board members he doesn't even know where or when his practices will be in the fall, which makes it hard to plan the rest of his schedule.
Kirsten Kingsley, the mother of a Prospect water polo player, asked the board to discuss its options for pools in open session so taxpayers can see where they stand.
She said because Prospect has to share a pool, some lanes during boy's swimming practices have up to 13 swimmers, too many to practice effectively.
"It would be nice if these young kids knew that when they get to high school they would have a lane to swim in," she said.