OPRF's $152M facilities plan

Opinion: Columns

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By OPRF Pragmatic Solutions

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On May 17, 2016, Oak Park and River Forest High School's architect of record, Legat, presented the school board with three Long Term Facility Plans (LTFPs). The most expensive one, Option 3, was priced at $152 million, with $90 million earmarked to totally demolish and rebuild the south end of the building and historic Field House, largely for physical education and athletics.

Legat called Option 3 the most "invasive" plan. Phase I would likely take three years to demolish and rebuild a third of the school's building. In the board discussion, the then-president commented that members looked "shell-shocked" over the disruption challenges inherent with Option 3, and a few members underscored that the building was structurally sound and well maintained, not in need of demolition. One member stressed that the need was only to reconfigure space, not demolish it.

At the June 14, 2016 meeting, the board unanimously rejected the $152 million plan without discussion. Five members of the 2016 school board sit on the current board.

The 2016 plan is relevant today as the Imagine OPRF Work Group is set to unveil its final conceptual LTFP this month. Both Option 3 and Imagine's plan, a compilation of its two concepts presented in June, include the disruptive total demolition and rebuild of the south end of the building and Field House. Both plans include huge pools and a 200-meter running track. While some of the plans' components differ, they are both extensive and touch nearly every corner of the building. As such, the Imagine plan's price tag will likely be in the neighborhood of the rejected $152 million plan.

Imagine's FAQ (frequently asked questions) page from May 2018, posted on the website, fails to acknowledge the existence of Option 3, falsely stating that no previous plan included a pool as part of a newly constructed PE/Athletics facility. The FAQ page contains other questionable statements and largely reads as a promotional piece for a big pool. It fails to fully articulate and provide documentation why a third of the school building must be demolished and rebuilt. Stating that space is inefficient does not equate to total demolition.

In response to why OPRF doesn't allow students to test out of swimming, the FAQ says few students could pass its aquatics safety firm's proficiency test, which includes swimming 500 yards without stopping. That's 400 yards more than the Boy Scouts' swim test. Scouts who pass the test are cleared for all aquatic activities anywhere in a lake. It's time to revisit OPRF's self-imposed, mandatory swimming requirement.

The FAQ page states that 16 regional schools have built stretch pools since 1996, yet doesn't include how many demolished buildings to accommodate them, probably none. That's the reality for OPRF. It can't build an oversized pool without demolishing a building or taking away green space. There are, however, two pragmatic pool solutions: a standard-size high school competition pool within the building or a covered 50-meter pool partnership at Ridgeland Commons, each priced under $20 million.

Dori Bernstein, Marty Bernstein, Kitty Conklin, Jack Davidson, Bruce Kleinman, Maureen Kleinman, Mike Nevins, Lisa Pearah, Monica Sheehan, Doug Springer, and Leslie Sutphen are members of OPRF Pragmatic Solutions.

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Tom MacMillan  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 11:37 AM

We don't need to cover the park district pool. A summer school swim program will allow every high schooler to pass whatever swimming 'requirement' is necessary as part of a low cost summer school program. And we do not even need a pool at the high school, just as we do not need a golf course for the golf team or an ice rink for the hockey team or stables for a polo pony team. The idea that a minor sport requires tens of millions of taxes dollars to be spent is something that we all should not be imagining.

Helen Vogel  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 10:36 AM

Sorry Amanda- but covering Ridgeland Common - No "S" is not the solution. Why would you want to mix a school district that shows no spending responsibility with a PD that does? Why does the PD and it's users need to be saddled by District 200's incompetence?

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 12:45 PM

Hmm. First there were 3 Plans, then 2, then 1 that we didn't get to hear about cause the August meeting with costs was cancelled now going back to 2 Plans. Just for drama's sake I have to say, "When will this insanity end". Dramatic, yes, but unfortunately true. The answer is.... cover Ridgeland Commons for $14.5 million (that's the cost that D200 already has from our paid taxes), and use the old pools spaces for boys new locker room and more Vocational Classes that are needed at OPRF.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 11:58 AM

Yes, Tom, the Hemingway Room will be demolished to appease the powers to be. It is rumored Ernie swam to and from his moored boat off shore at The Keys, However that swim was unauthorized, unsupervised and free. From his book, "The Old Man and The Sea", a new aquatic sport will be started at the School when the new pool is built. The sport will be named "taxing", and students will be placed by themselves in an open boat in the new pool, and be pulled around by forces more powerful then themselves. The Students will learn loss, survival. This will prepare students to be taxpayers in the future, and what it is like to battle unseen strong forces.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 9:03 AM

4000 kids get no Field House basketball, wrestling tournaments or indoor track meets for three years? What a horrible idea. Are they going to rip out the Hemmingway room, or does the swim team need that too?

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 8:18 AM

In an update to this letter, the Imagine OPRF Work Group has canceled its August meeting with the school board. According to an announcement released on Tuesday, Imagine will "present the Board and community with two variations of a single concept in September." While the statement didn't reference it, a source close to Imagine has confirmed that the August meeting has been canceled. At the June 26 Board meeting, Imagine stated that it would present its final conceptual plan, derived from its two presented plans, to the Board at a meeting in August. Imagine said this plan would have cost estimates attached, marking the first time costs would be released in connection with any of Imagine's proposed concepts. Based on its presented plans in June, Imagine's final conceptual plan will contain a major and controversial element that was also part of a rejected 2016 plan, the unnecessary demolition of a third of the school building.

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