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Wants vs. needs at OPRF

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

July 10th, 2018 12:48 PM

I attended the June 26 meeting in which the Imagine group presented two concepts for a master facilities plan. The Imagine group is absolutely to be commended for its considerable time and efforts over the last 10 months.

Imagine's concepts are ambitious, and they appear to touch every corner of the building. Yet the "orange" and "blue" concepts are essentially the same plan with some components positioned differently from one plan to the other. There are, in fact, many "wants" included in the concepts, at a time when this tax-burdened community is straining under the pressure to simply meet "needs." Even without price tags attached, the total cost of Imagine's plan will be staggering.

When it comes to proposals for a master facilities plan, there cannot be one pre-determined and extreme outcome.

Before more time and money are spent on the Imagine effort, I respectfully request that you, the school board, intercede now and direct the Imagine group and its architects to draw up two other conceptual plans. Imagine's current concepts represent the most expensive, most intrusive and most difficult to build plans. They include a total demolition of the south end of the building and field house along with building a huge pool and seating for 600 spectators.

The second conceptual plan would be moderate in scope and focused heavily on academic needs. It would renovate the south end of the building and field house. This plan would include one standard-size high school competition pool and seating for 300 spectators.

The third conceptual plan would be minimal in scope and include true facility needs only, removing the pools from the school altogether and repurposing those spaces. Ideally, this plan would include a collaborative effort with the Park District of Oak Park to cover the Ridgeland pool, with a retractable cover if financially feasible, to create a year-round, joint-use facility.

These three conceptual plans with their total price tags would then be presented in a straightforward, unbiased manner in Imagine's upcoming phone survey. Only by presenting our community with three clear options will you be able to act in the best interests of all stakeholders. 

Speaking on behalf of many voters, I believe this is the best way forward for you, our students and our community. 

Kitty Conklin

OPRF Pragmatic Solutions

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  • Monica Sheehan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 11:09 PM

    Tim, How many of the high schools that you reference demolished a structurally sound building to accommodate their long-stretch pools? Imagine's "concepts" include the total demolition and rebuild of a third of OPRFHS, a structurally sound and well maintained building. Imagine has provided no documentation to support the "need" to bulldoze the south end of the building and the historic Field House. I have submitted a FOIA request for the documentation that supports a number of statements posted on the Imagine May 2018 FAQ page, including the one regarding 16 high schools and their "stretch" pools. To clarify, the standard-size, high school competition pool is an 8-lane, 25-yard pool not Imagine's proposed 17-lane, 40-yard, long-stretch pool. The latter would allow for simultaneous diving during a swim meet, an extravagance for any public high school. There's nothing confusing about the moniker of a "stretch" pool. It is a "larger than normal" pool, hence the word "stretch". In fact, it's double the size of a standard-size, high school competition pool.

  • Tim Brandhorst (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 10:04 PM

    Jason Cohen, thanks for the reply. First, I have to repeat--the Imagine project is not about the pool, and the Imagine concepts solve many problems. But this thread wants to address just one aspect of the concepts, the pool, so I'll limit my comment. There are currently two very old pools at OPRF. The proposal is to replace these two pools with a single pool. Our current concepts indicate space for a 25x40 yard pool. This size pool is commonly called a stretch pool. That name confuses some people, and they think it's a larger than normal pool--even an extravagance--but it's the standard size for a high school pool. Our research indicates that since 1996, nearly every high school pool constructed in our region is a stretch pool. What Imagine is proposing is simply on par with what nearly every other high school (including schools far smaller than OPRF) undertaking similar renovations has decided to build. And that's a fact. There are more facts, about a lot more than the pool, at the Imagine web page on OPRF's site. Hope you'll check it out.

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 9:33 PM

    To paraphrase the esteemed and departed Horward Cossell, "Down goes Imagine, down goes Imagine." Sheehan, goes to the corner, no joy on her face, just that look on her face asking the silent question, " How many times must I enter the ring. How many more punches must I throw. I don't care about the purse or the belt. I just want the unwanted fight to end." Popcorn and bing cherries, almost depleted, switching to black diamond watermelon for the next round.

  • Monica Sheehan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 3:24 PM

    Jake, Because I rely on facts, there is no need for me to "characterize" anything about the Imagine process. Here are seven relevant facts. Fact #1: The Imagine subgroup tasked with recommending pool solutions is stacked with big pool supporters and school employees, based on a FOIA response. Fact #2: This subgroup has presented the community with only one size pool: a huge pool, 17-lanes with seating for 600 spectators. Fact #3: The D200 Administration told the Imagine group that it was not to consider a collaboration with the park district regarding a pool solution. Fact #4: In the November 2016 election, 82% of D200's registered voters cast ballots, and the majority voted "no" to the 40-meter pool referendum. Fact #5: Imagine's 37-meter (40-yard) singular pool recommendation fails to acknowledge the majority "no" vote. Fact #6: The following May 2018 FAQ page response is false: "Projected costs contained in previous OPRF reports and plans are not relevant in the current process since none of those included a pool as part of a newly constructed PE/Athletics facility." See the link in my post below about the $152M facility plan that included a total demolition and rebuild of the south end of the building and Field House, considered and rejected by the D200 Board in 2016. Fact #7: The D200 website has posted other false information on the pool issue in the past, including that a standard-size high school competition pool (8-lanes, 25-yards) couldn't fit within the footprint of the building. The last major renovation at OPRF was, in fact, just 20 years ago, not 50 years ago: the 1998 Master Facility Plan. And, D200's widely promoted declarative statement that "3,000 gallons of water leak from the pools daily" is unsupported and contradicts its own pool study. In closing, the FAQ page appears, in part, to be a promotional tool to drive the narrative for a huge pool, and some of its responses are highly questionable. It's important to always consider the source.

  • Jason Cohen (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 3:06 PM

    Tim, I appreciate the time everyone is putting into this but I have literally not talked to a single person that thinks we need large expensive pools at the HS. I should note that I tend to support school improvements. I voted yes on the D97 referendums for example. The swim lessons are certainly a bonus but most people don't seem to find these valuable. Assuming we all believe swim lessons should stay then a standard pool is more than satisfactory. We are talking about spending a very large sum of money for extravagant pools that only benefit a small number of students. I am all about spending on the education of the children in the community but this doesn't really do that. If the education of ALL of the students is truly most important then let's see options without a pool or a smaller one. The thing is by not showing these options you force everyone to assume this is all about the giant pools otherwise why wouldn't more economical options be shown? I will say it again. We could spend $1 million per year on external swimming lessons for any OP student that wants them and still save a fortune.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 1:02 PM

    The "one main criticism" is why are we even talking about spending all this tax money. Put it all off for ten years, life will go on just fine. Most residents do not want this project to happen. This is not "driven by residents", you have a small group of Pro-Pool people and some OPRF staff driving us where we do not want to go. It is not "inclusive", you have the head of the Pool Group running it.

  • Tim Brandhorst (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 12:39 PM

    Jason Cohen: I think your comment goes to the nature of the whole process we're engaged in. I for one voted against the last referendum, not because I have strong feelings one way or the other about a pool (I don't), but because to me it seemed like a process fail. I suspect there was a similar recognition by the board and administration in the aftermath, as well as a recognition that a single problem shouldn't take precedence when there are so many serious issues to address. So the Imagine process has been designed from the beginning to be a completely different, much-improved process--transparent, driven by residents, inclusive of the community, and thorough. Rather than focus on a solving one problem, we were tasked with evaluating every current and future need for the entire facility, top to bottom, then developing a long term holistic plan to address all these needs over time. The main criticism we hear all the time is, why is it taking so long? But in the context of the process fail the last time around, I would think most residents would want us to take the time to come up with best set of solutions possible. And while the Imagine process will continue on for some time, it's nothing compared to the timeframes we're trying to consider: there has not been a renovation to the school in over fifty years, and so it's not unlikely the solutions brought forth now will have to work for the next fifty.

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 10:24 AM

    Wait, wait, switching from popcorn to bing cherries. Sheehan is building the perfect weapon to slay the opposition in mass.Waiting for the obligatory editorial for the Wednesday Journal Staff, with no name, advocating for the pool.

  • Nick Polido (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 9:37 AM

    Jake and the 28 vote mantra is so tiresome : I'm still amazed at Monica and the grass root efforts to defeat this referendum, it was truly a miracle in Oak Park, I'm not sure of any referendums that have ever been defeated......

  • Michael Nevins (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 9:30 AM

    @ J.W-H: "There was a referendum that failed a few years ago by 28 votes." True, but the world has changed a lot since then. First, the D97 referendum greatly raised OP taxes. Second, the SALT max is now $10K. Third, this is mostly a "wants" vs "needs" effort by D200 and it's dominated by the destabilizing destruction of the field house. There's a reason why the D200 board prez lost in his bid for re-election - and it was by much more than 28 votes.

  • Joel A. Schoenmeyer (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 8:45 AM

    "The IMAGINE group is made up of equal numbers of community members who voted for and against the referendum." I and I'm sure others would absolutely love to see the evidence in support of this statement.

  • Jake Worley-Hood from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 8:17 AM

    Monica, your characterization of the master planning process is misleading. The end product will be a master facilities plan, with priorities, costs, timeframes, and a staging strategy, and that plan will be developed through continued dialogue with the school board and the community over the coming months. There was a referendum that failed a few years ago by 28 votes. The failure of the referendum did not solve the overall facilities at the school so a new approach was sought. The IMAGINE group is made up of equal numbers of community members who voted for and against the referendum. The intention is to find a fair and equitable solution to all of the long and short term facilities needs that will be supported by the community. For specific details, please refer to the FAQ document I've already referenced, at http://www.oprfhs.org/about/FAQ-from-May-2018.cfm

  • Jason Cohen (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 19th, 2018 2:11 AM

    Jake, I am sure the imagine team is well intentioned but it's very clear there's an agenda here and nobody is really fooled by it. The pool referendum failed so now there's an attempt to make the project larger to bring in more voters. Look at the arts and other improvements so now non pool supporters will vote for this. If the goal is to truly improve the school then let's remove the pools entirely and that provides plenty of space for everything else. I don't think I have ever heard from anyone that says the swim classes were a great benefit and I have a child at the HS. We could pay for individual swim lessons for all HS students elsewhere at $1 million per year and save a bundle. The fact that none of the plans actually provide options that don't include the oversized pools speaks volumes. That's the core part of this which apparently can't even be looked at. If the goal is to offer the village options then all options should be on the table.

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 18th, 2018 9:24 PM

    The exchange between Jake Worley-Hood and Monica Sheehan is worthy of pay per view. Waiting for the response. Popcorn and snacks at the ready.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 18th, 2018 8:40 PM

    Jake, here is a question since you want more of them. Why is your group of 50 people blatantly ignoring what 17,384 people voted NO to ? If you want some extra Arts at OPRF, do it without tearing down half the school to build a pool we voted against. Respect the election results. I encourage you to read for yourself the election results from your neighbors.

  • Waldhorn Fafner from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 18th, 2018 2:49 PM

    An option for the Imagine group to consider is forming a Fantastic Swimming Pool club, hold fund raisers. Get donations and build their own swimming facility to their specifications. They can form a not for profit corporations and maybe get assistance in its operations from other groups that could use the facility.

  • Monica Sheehan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 18th, 2018 1:57 PM

    Jake, Your post states that my "characterization of the Imagine facilities concepts is simply not accurate." What are you referring to? Please be specific so that I can accurately respond to your comment. Thank you.

  • Jake Worley-Hood from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 18th, 2018 1:24 PM

    Tom, thanks for your reply. I'm an Imagine volunteer. The web page you refer to is an FAQ. There were a number of pool-related questions submitted by residents during and after the May community meeting, so we've done our best to respond to them--along with many other questions on other topics. I am personally on the Arts subcommittee and would love to see more questions and community engagement concerning those plans.  Monica, your characterization of the Imagine facilities concepts is simply not accurate. I encourage all residents to read for themselves the latest on what is being proposed, at http://www.oprfhs.org/about/FAQ-from-May-2018.cfm.  This stage of the master planning process is about looking at what is possible.  Ultimately, the master plan created by IMAGINE will serve to facilitate a board discussion on the value of future renovations to student, faculty, and taxpayers.

  • Monica Sheehan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 17th, 2018 3:05 PM

    Jason, You raise an important issue. The disruption resulting from a total demolition and rebuild of a third of the school building would impact every student, every employee and the surrounding neighbors for at least two years. Members of the D200 School Board raised this very issue at the June 26 Imagine group meeting, just as members of the 2016 school board raised the same issue at the 5/17/16 Special School Board meeting. For, you see, a similar plan to totally demolish the south end of the building, including the historic Field House, was proposed, considered and rejected just two short years ago. Legat architects described it as the most "invasive" plan under consideration. A few school board members underscored at the time that the building was structurally sound and well maintained in the discussion of whether it should be torn down. The disruption factor was and remains a major issue. Also at issue with the 2016 plan was its cost. It was the most expensive plan. The price tag for the total facility plan was an astounding $152 million, with $90 million earmarked for the demolition and rebuild of the south end of the building alone, largely for athletics and physical education. This plan included a huge 40-meter pool, just 3-meters longer than the 17-lane pool Imagine is recommending, along with a 200-meter running track. A month later at the 6/14/16 meeting, the school board rejected the $152 million plan without discussion, deciding against presenting it to the public at the July community meetings. While Imagine has disclosed no cost estimates for any of its concepts, the price tag for its chosen plan to be unveiled in August will likely be in the neighborhood of the 2016 plan, adjusted for inflation. Go to the link below to view the 2016 plan, Option 3, p. 12. https://intranet.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/board_meetings/Special_Meetings/Packets/2015-16/20160517%20SPEC%20Packet/20160517%20SPEC%20LTFP%20Plans%20wcost.pdf

  • Dave Slade from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 17th, 2018 12:10 PM

    Monica - correct me if I'm wrong, but the community already made a choice and that choice was "NO", right? So, "NO" was the decision made by several thousand overtaxed residents. How about we make sure every student has to take, and pass, a financial literacy class to graduate so they realize how much college is, and what a loan is, and what taxes are, so when they want to move back to the town they grew up in, they will understand that they can't? There is well over $100M in the OPRF coffers that needs to be spent, and this plan will be attempted to be pushed through regardless of community input, while the pension fund is tens of millions of dollars underfunded. Why isn't the Imagine group addressing that?

  • Dale Jones (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 17th, 2018 12:05 PM

    Based on conversations with my kids and their friends when they attended OPRF, I can say that the swimming requirement is one of the most hated graduation requirements and it is not even a State or Federal requirement. while the cost of building a pool is enormous and the cost of maintaining a working pool is a huge ongoing burden for the taxpayers. The money would be better spent in setting up a tutoring and vocational training programs that match non-college bound students with Illinois businesses and help them get the writing and math skills needed for today's high tech industrial jobs. These jobs pay better than most jobs available to recent college grads. Fire the swim coaches and hire apprenticeship coordinators to work with Illinois employers. High paying industrial jobs are going unfilled and D200 is wasting much time and and large sums of money on swim programs that benefit a small number of mostly college bound students. Nuts!

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 17th, 2018 8:28 AM

    Tim Brandhorst - thanks for the link to the Imagine website. We learn there all about why we need a huge pool, so teen age high schoolers can fight arthritis and lower their anxiety. WOW, what a justification! We also can see that half the info is only about a Pool, even though the group talks about this as not being about a pool. End the bogus PE requirement for a pool. Then lets imagine changing the existing pool space into additional classrooms.

  • Monica Sheehan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 16th, 2018 8:35 PM

    Tom, the community deserves a real choice when it comes to D200's master facilities plan, in what appears to be the latest effort to build a huge pool on campus. Throughout the process, the Imagine group has put forth only one pool option, a long-stretch pool with 17-lanes and seating for 600 spectators. The community should have a choice including a standard-size high school competition pool option as well as a joint pool option between D200 and the park district. According to a source, it would be the least expensive option, costing about $14M to cover the Ridgeland Common pool, an Olympic-size pool located diagonally across the street from OPRF. The cost estimate even includes a new pool liner. The D200 Administration instructed the Imagine group that it was not to consider any collaboration with the park district. Why? All options should be considered and included in a bias-free, statistically significant phone survey, and the community's preferred option placed on the ballot. The 2016 Fako phone survey revealed that "overall replacing the pool with new pools was a low priority," for the community, yet a huge, unwanted pool was placed on the ballot anyway. Enough, already.

  • Christine Vernon (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 16th, 2018 8:15 PM

    Growing up in Oak Park in the 1950s, there were four pools open to the public that are now gone 1) The old YMCA which is now condos across from Scoville Park on Oak Park Avenue; 2) The Oak Park Club - now condos next to the old YMCA and across from Scoville Park; 3) The Nineteenth Century Women's Club; 4) Oak Park Hospital. All gone now. In the area, there were three other pool opportunities open for the public - one was 5) The Mudhole on Austin Blvd just north of the viaduct on the Chgo side of the street (that one was closed during the polio epidemic; 6) Columbus Park pool; 7) Concordia College. They are all gone. Now, at this time there is no option for indoor pools for the public, the elderly, and/or disabled people who need water therapeutically...and along comes a group pushing a plan for a colossally extravagant for one segment of the population. It is astonishing to me what skewed priorities this represents. Extravagant gifts like this to the community are appropriate for philanthropists like Robert Crown, (lucky Evanston - https://dailynorthwestern.com/2018/07/16/city/evanston-breaks-ground-on-new-robert-crown-community-center-project/ , but to take tax money and spend it disproportionately in the way proposed by the Imagine group seems truly irresponsible. The health club at Gottlieb Hospital was the first one created in the US adjoining a hospital and an effective vehicle for therapy and preventative medicine for members. More people have benefitted from access to that health club than they have from access to those exercise facilities than from their prescriptions sometimes I imagine!

  • Tim Brandhorst

    Posted: July 16th, 2018 6:55 PM

    As a member of the Imagine OPRF working group, I urge anyone seeking more information about the facilities proposals under consideration to visit the Imagine OPRF web page. Answers to many of the questions residents asked at our May community meeting as well as issues raised in the letter to the editor above can be found at http://www.oprfhs.org/about/FAQ-from-May-2018.cfm.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 16th, 2018 10:44 AM

    Any survey done by the so called Imagine group cannot possibly be called unbiased. The entire process is biased. It is run by the Yes Pool people so they can use our tax dollars to get an Olympic pool, ignoring the NO vote held by the town. These surveys are ridiculous. They get a literal tiny handful of comments and try to use them to justify spending tens of millions based on the survey results. Survey this: NO MEANS NO.

  • Jason Cohen (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 15th, 2018 8:39 PM

    One item that I don't see discussed is the massive disruption this will have on the kids at the school while a project of this size is going on. This will have a real impact on the students. This is yet another reason to look at minimizing the size of this project. I have a kid at OPRF now and will have another next year and I really don't want their experience at the HS to be partially dominated by a massive construction project.

  • Marc Martinez from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 15th, 2018 1:01 PM

    Thanks to Conklin and Kline. Very well said. We need real options that focus on the real needs. We are already saddled with permanently increasing property taxes and don't need any more excessive spending.

  • Alice Wellington (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 14th, 2018 12:05 PM

    Bruce Kline - well said. Thank you.

  • Bruce Kline (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 13th, 2018 11:20 PM

    Karen Krug Anderson: The issue is that only ONE choice was presented to the D200 BOE via the IMAGINE committee. That so called choice necessarily involved a giant pool encased ?" like sausage filling ?" within an equally gigantic facility deconstruction / reconstruction. That's not a choice at all. That's a mandate. I suspect that is what has many Oak Parkers anti pool at this point. This pool issue has spun totally out of control. Given the tax crisis in our community I think it would have been much more equitable to present the board with ?" as Kitty implied ?" three viable and totally different options. And yes, there are many who honestly believe a pool is a waste or resources. That being said, the people such as myself ?" as an active member of OPRF Pragmatic Solutions (as Kitty is) - who actively campaigned against the 2016 big pool referendum, agree with you. We are on record as supporting a NEW 25 yd. 8 lane competition pool built largely within the current foot print of the high school, indeed, as suggested by D200's own consultants, Stantec, in 2013. It is D200 as well as the powerful "pool lobby" who are totally against this easily accomplished and economical solution. They argued their case clearly in 2013 - http://www.oprfhs.org/board-of-education/documents/NatatoriumProposal.pdf - saying a 25 yd. pool is the worst option. They used words such as "disastrous" to describe this option. To emphasize: the members of OPRF Pragmatic Solution totally support building a new 25 yd. 8 lane pool, within the footprint of the school. We are totally opposed to the wasteful construction of an unnecessary and enormous pool and furthermore opposed to the wasteful deconstruction of a structurally sound and functional field house. We are opposed to the absolute waste of hard earned taxpayer dollars and total disregard of the taxpayer, particularly during a time of crisis.

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 13th, 2018 10:39 PM

    If swimming is the only worthwhile gym class offered at the high school, then lets shut down all the other gym classes, us the money saved to build the pool. Swimming may save a life, however if there is no pool the chances of drowning are almost nil. Cant drown if there is no water.

  • Karen Krug Anderson (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 13th, 2018 9:59 PM

    Dale, Kitty and all anti pool people...the high school does need a pool. There are established classes and teams that do not deserve to be shut down because of all this pool nonsense. Honestly, swimming is the only worthwhile gym class offered at the HS. Do kids really need to learn badmitten? It's fun, but it won't save a life. The HS does need a pool, it does not need a 40 meter pool. I, and MANY other families would like to see an economical 25 yard pool option. There are many pro pool people out there that do not see a need for a 40 meter pool. They just want to see a functional pool their kids can swim in.

  • Dale Jones (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 13th, 2018 1:07 PM

    I agree with your approach. We need a no pool option.

  • Neal Buer (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 12th, 2018 10:53 PM

    Kitty, as always, you are the voice of reason. I can IMAGINE a lot of things I can't afford.

  • Jennifer Packheiser from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: July 12th, 2018 9:34 PM

    Thank you Kitty for your thoughtful comments about the Imagine OPRF plans. Taxpayers need a group like OPRF Pragmatic Solutions to keep an eye on taxing bodies and their needs. The fact that neither of the proposed concepts involves dollar amounts is alarming. A third plan, as presented in your letter, is necessary to see the real picture at the high school. As referenced in other parts of this week's paper, property taxes in OP are reaching a tipping point and District 200 needs to take that into account with any plan.

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