A suburban parent and swim coach is urging Northwest Suburban High School District 214 to build a large aquatic facility for use by several of its schools rather than individual pools at the three district schools that do not yet have them.
Mary Ruffin, head coach and CEO of Arlington Heights-based Alligator Aquatics, presented a plan to the District 214 board last week calling for a large aquatic center that could host multiple swim practices and meets at the same time, meeting the needs of several schools.
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Three of District 214's six high schools have swimming pools, but with Buffalo Grove's undergoing an $11 million reconstruction this year, only two are available.
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.
Parents of swimmers, divers and water polo players have appeared before the board over the past several months asking that the district consider building a pool in every school. In May, neighboring Palatine-Schaumburg Township District 211 approved a $15 million plan to rebuild swimming pools in each of the district's five high schools.
"I moved here 21 years ago and never considered that pools were not a part of every high school," Ruffin said. "I was startled to find out they were not."
Ruffin suggests an aquatic facility with two pools -- one that is 50 meters long with a deep end for diving, and a second, smaller pool for teaching and practice. Under her proposal, up to three swim teams could train at one time and meets could be held at one end while training takes place at the other. She said two water polo teams could practice at the same time as well.
Building one aquatic center would reduce costs on staffing and maintenance, she added. Her presentation did not include an estimate of how much a facility like the one proposed would cost.
Ruffin said safety is a major reason the district should invest in pools. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of injury-related deaths for children under 14, she said.
With an aquatic center, Ruffin said the district could consider adding synchronized swimming teams, make sure all students are taught to swim in gym classes and institute a student lifeguard program to train student volunteers to monitor the pool.
She also highlighted the benefits that a pool could have for students with disabilities, cross training for other sports teams, rehab for injured athletes and offering swimming lessons and open swim to the community.
An aquatic center could also host swim meets to make extra money, she said, noting that an event at Stevenson High School brought in more than $50,000 last year.
The school board does not respond to public comment during meetings, but Superintendent David Schuler previously has said that parent concerns are "fair," but the cost of building new pools would require significant spending reductions elsewhere.
"I know you are responsible for every dollar you spend," Ruffin told the board. "Pools can bring in revenue. I'm asking you as a coach, a parent, a member of this school district and a believer in excellence, that you lead the Northwest suburbs and possibly Illinois in pool and aquatic development."