No Pools For Schools

I spent most of my childhood swimming.  Springboard pool in Springfield was my home, from early mornings at swim team practice to afternoons lounging around the pool. I remember the frozen hair after leaving practice in the winter and the chlorine smell that permeated everything I owned.  One of the girls I swam with, Susie Rapp, received a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics for the 100 meter breaststroke.  I swam on our neighborhood and high school teams until I turned 16, got a job, and discovered boys, though not necessarily in that order.

Why am I talking about swimming on a blog about education?  Because PWCS intends to include a pool in their plans for the 12th high school that will be built in mid-county near the Kelly Center.

I grew up swimming and can’t imagine what my life would have been without it.  I understand and respect the importance of swimming as a team sport and something you do for fun.


Last year PWCS said it didn’t have enough money to give teachers raises for the next 5 years.  The school division was able to find enough money to eek out a step increase, but only after raising class sizes to 28 students in elementary school and 35 – 40 students in middle and high school.  If PWCS didn’t have the money for teacher raises and can’t afford to lower class sizes,  how can we afford to  operate a pool in a school?

Our schools’ core function is teaching our children to read, write, and do math. Our test scores, while good in some areas, have room for improvement in many areas. Our high school drop out rate is among the highest in the region.  Our class sizes are the largest in the state by a significant margin. Many of our schools are overcrowded, and not just mildly so. Lunch that runs from 10 am – 2 pm is common across the county, because our existing facilities are inadequate to meet our needs.  Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the region.

But we can afford to put a pool in a school?

Only one school division in Northern Virginia operates pools in their high schools – Arlington County.  No other school divisions operate pools in their schools because the cost is too high. The pools in the Arlington high schools are open to the public for limited hours during the week and on weekends.  Revenues for fees for use of the pools cover less than half the annual operating costs.  The rest is provided with taxpayer money; money that could and should be spent on teachers and classrooms.

There’s no doubt that PWC needs another community center.  Dale City and Chinn are at their breaking point.  But we need a community center, run by the Park Authority, where the focus will be on meeting the needs of the community as a whole, not just swim teams.

A pool in a school isn’t part of the school division’s core function. It meets no ones needs, except a few politicians who want to gather as many feathers for their caps as possible.

Politicians feathering their caps on the backs of the taxpayers isn’t something I can or will support, especially when that feathering will take scarce school division resources away from teachers and classrooms.

We need a school and seats for students, but we don’t need a pool in a school.

Write to your school board members and BOCS representatives  Let them know that you don’t support building a school with a pool.

Cut and paste the addresses below to send an email to the entire School Board:


Cut and paste the addresses below to send an email to the entire Board of County Supervisors:


9 Responses to “No Pools For Schools”

  1. PugHenry Says:

    Why not build a community center next to the school so it can be utilized by the school and the community. At Graham Park MS there is a Park Authority pool right next door and even though it is an outdoor pool the school uses it to introduce the students to swimming.

  2. pwceducationreform Says:

    Pug – I think that’s a great idea! A community center run by the Park Authority where the focus would be on meeting the needs of the entire community, not just providing access times for swim teams.

  3. Al Alborn Says:

    What about the Chin and Freedom Centers? These are both County resources. Why build when we already own a couple of great, competition size pools.

  4. pwceducationreform Says:

    Al, from what I understand, Chinn and Freedom are at capacity and swim teams are having difficulty finding lap times. What that tells me is that we need another community center, one that’s run by the Park Authority where the emphasis will be on meeting the needs of the entire community, not just providing a pool for swim teams.

    Until last night, PWCS had never disclosed their plans to put a pool in the 12th high school in public. They’d never provided estimates for constructing the pool, pumps, air purification, and water heaters for the pool, They’ve never provided estimates of the costs of operating the pool. Not to the public and not to the school board.

    But the plans have been approved every year, with barely a ripple.

  5. Kim Simons Says:

    Below is a letter I just sent to BOCS Chairman Corey Stewart regarding the school pool.

    Hi Chairman Stewart! Thank you for keeping me up to date on the debates. Because of family commitments I’m not able to attend these events and really do appreciate your efforts to keep me informed.

    Based on what you said, I want to ask you a question. You said we had a, ” state government which doesn’t have the will to make the tough, necessary cuts and prioritize what is truly important to Virginians. We need a Lt. Governor who knows how to make the tough decisions, lead with real reform, and defend our conservative principals.”

    Do you think those same conservative principals should be employed by our local elected officials; that they to should strive to make the necessary cuts and priortize what’s important to Prince William County residents?

    If you do then I’d like to ask whether you think it would be acceptable for one county department to claim that it can’t afford to fund operations without a 4% tax increase, while at the same time proceeding with plans to build unnecessary facilities that are unrelated to the department’s core function that will cost over $500,000 a year to operate?

    I ask you this because PWCS finally admitted last night that their plans for the 12th high school include building and operating an indoor swimming pool, solely for the use by swim teams. They didn’t actually admit it, I brought it up and forced them to admit it. Up until now these plans have not been released to the public and have not been presented to the public for consideration. School board members have told me that they were stymied when trying to obtain information about the pool. Neither the cost of building a pool nor the cost of operating a pool have been provided to the school board or public, but the bid to build the school and pool will be released this Spring.

    Do you consider that sound fiscal management? Does approving plans for a pool in a school before the cost of building and operating a pool are know sound like good decision making to you?

    Arlington County operates pools in three of their public high schools. The operating costs alone associated with those three pools is in excess of $1.5 million a year. Arlington’s been operating those pools for over 40 years, so I think we can assume they do it rather well. Using their numbers as a baseline, one pool would cost roughly $500,000 a year in operating costs alone. Arlington opens their pools to the public for limited hours during the day and on weekends. The fees they receive for those limited public hours cover less than half of their operating costs.

    PWCS doesn’t appear to have plans for opening the pool at the 12th high school to the public at all. They don’t appear to have any plans, other than to build and operate the pool.

    Our schools have the largest class sizes in state by a significant margin. The school division claims that they don’t have the money to reduce class sizes. They can’t afford to reduce class sizes but they can afford to put a pool in a school?

    The BOCS is the last line of defense, Corey. If you approve their budget and CIP for this year, then you are also saying that you think a pool in a school without any estimates of the cost to build and operate the pool, is a wise decision.

    Thank you for listening.


    Kim Simons

  6. School Board Chair Defends Building Pool in New H.S. : Bristow Beat Says:

    […] PWC Education Reform Blog, she voiced her concerns. Simons said she has fond memories of swimming, but said it is not a n […]

  7. School Board Chair Defends Building Pool in New H.S. : Bristow Beat Says:

    […] PWC Education Reform Blog, she voiced her concerns. Simons said she has fond memories of swimming, but said it is not a n […]

  8. Janelle Anderson Says:

    The Sheriff of Nottingham of PWC wrote a blog post on this today.

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