TPS looks into cutting costs by closing underused school swimming pools
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
10/03/12 at 8:07 AM
Tulsa Public Schools has launched a study of pool use to determine if there are any cost-saving measures at half of its sites with pools.
The district has 24 pools, but some have gone unused for a decade or longer. Surveys went out to 12 principals at schools where pool use was thought to be low or even nonexistent.
"We are going to be doing a pretty intensive look into swimming pools throughout the district," said TPS Public Information Officer Chris Payne. "Since the passage of the 2010 bond, we have seen an ever-increasing cost in the operation of pools due to rising utility costs and increased federal requirements."
Most are elementary schools that occupy facilities that were previously middle schools or junior highs. Webster High School was the only high school on the list.
"Some already don't have water and are not currently used," said Bob LaBass, executive director of bond projects and utility management at TPS. "I think that Chouteau's and Webster's pools have not been in use for 10 to 15 years."
While no decision has been made about whether to close any of the pools, LaBass estimates that closing 12 pools could save TPS $30,000-$40,000 annually in utility costs alone.
The district is also faced with the expensive prospect of installing lifts for disabled people in 23 of its 24 pools at a cost of $7,500 each in order to comply with new federal access requirements.
That means closing a dozen of those pools would keep another $90,000 in district coffers.
All but one pool was built in the 1970s or earlier, and that means keeping up with leaks and other plumbing problems is a constant maintenance concern.
LaBass said $1.6 million allocated for pool repairs from a previous bond issue was a drop in the proverbial bucket toward all of the work that is needed.
"We've got $2 million budgeted in the current bond for pool upgrades and we could probably spend $10 million," he said. "On top of all of the leaks, the locker rooms and showers are all bad. They all need work. We're not going to change the amount we have to spend. We would like to spend that money on the pools that are actually in use."
Scott Griffith, principal at Lewis and Clark Elementary School, was one of the first responders to the survey. His school's pool is full of water, but he estimated that it had been used twice since he came there in August 2011 and never by students.
"These middle-school pools were never built for 4-, 5-, 6-year olds," Griffith said. "They were built for teenagers. There are dangers because it's deep - it's not like we have a wading pool."
Still, he is torn about the possibility of closing it down once and for all.
"It has been our intention to have it open for our teachers, but with all of the other priorities it has fallen by the wayside," he said. "I can't see spending all of that money with no more use than we have out of it. It's a little bit sad to think we might not have it, but on the other hand, we haven't been using it."
Original Print Headline: TPS delves into pool use
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470
Swim team member Adam Lugibihl dives into the pool during practice at Edison Preparatory School recently. Tulsa Public Schools has 24 pools, but some have gone unused for a decade or longer. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Swim team member Adam Lugibihl stretches during practice at Edison Preparatory School. While no decision has been made on closing any pool, one official with TPS estimates that closing 12 of the district's pools could save TPS $30,000-$40,000 annually in utility costs alone. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World