Plans to replace the Puyallup High School swimming pool with a softball field have upset a number of parents, who don’t put much stock in the school district’s promise to build a regional aquatic center.
Several addressed the school board Sept. 9 to voice their displeasure.
“You wouldn’t demolish arts without having something in place,” John Holmes told the board.
On top of hosting games, practices and training for both a boys and girls high school swim team and a water polo team, the PHS pool is open to the community for swim lessons, rentals and free recreational swimming three times a week.
David Touriel said his son learned to swim in the Puyallup High pool and continues to swim there.
“Both my kids swim here for Puyallup. Both of my niece and nephew will be swimming here, and it’s becoming our family legacy,” said the high school girls’ swim coach Casi Messineo. “And once you lose that, it’s not coming back and it’s heartbreaking.”
Eliminating the pool is part of a $273 million bond proposal being sent to the ballot in November. Money from the bond would upgrade security at district high schools.
Classrooms would be consolidated from portables and smaller buildings at Puyallup, Rogers and Walker high schools into the main building. Emerald Ridge would add on to the existing building.
Property owners would be taxed $3.94 per $1,000 of the assessed value starting with their 2020 tax bill, said Corine Pennington, PSD’s chief financial officer.
Part of the work at Puyallup High includes eliminating the pool.
The district has spent more than $1.5 million in maintaining the 25-foot pool in the past ten years, with issues like pump replacement, repairing tiles and resurfacing.
The pool boiler is the original from the 1950s, said Jim Meyerhoff, district director of Athletics, Health and Fitness.
The pool floor must be weighed down while drained, because the soil underneath is unstable, spokesperson Brian Fox said.
Messineo said building a pool is a money pit, but you build one because of its value to the community. While Superintendent Dr. Tim Yeomans told the board on Monday they are looking to design a plan for a district-wide aquatic center, the swim coach said she hasn’t been told of any concrete steps.
“No one has talked to me to tell me a plan,” Messineo said.
In response to Monday’s school board meeting comments, the district published a “vision” that looks to eventually expand the pool at Rogers High.
The district said Puyallup High’s pool would not be removed until a second 25-yard pool was added at Rogers High. More total lanes would be available for swimmers, and all the districts’ swim teams would be able to keep their practice times, Meyerhoff said. The only difference would be the location.
Funding for a Regional Aquatic Center at Rogers High School is not included in November’s bond. Some parents, like Kerry Boles, said she’s skeptical that the district would expand the current pool at Rogers. They claim Emerald Ridge was promised a pool 20 years ago and still hasn’t seen one.
Even if there is an aquatic center in place, Boles and Holmes mentioned the potential “carpooling nightmare” that would ensue if students now had to be driven to practice.
Boles said she would vote against the bond solely in protest of the pool’s potential fate.
Parents addressing the board all had a similar accusation: that the move to replace the pool with a softball field and upgraded tennis courts was “tucked in” a bond to secure schools, and it was seen as deceptive.
“That affects transparency issues,” Holmes told the board. “That may not be the intent, but that’s the way we see it-underhanded.”
One board member, Maddie Names, promised a stronger commitment to an open line of communication.
“There are things we could do a better job in communicating to you, and that’s on us,” she said at the board meeting.
Some parents, like Touriel, are waiting to pass judgment until the district comes back with a clearer idea of what’s to happen if the pool is demolished and even if voters pass the bond proposal.