Several months ago I addressed the PWC School Board about their plans to build a pool in the 12th high school. I asked how the annual cost of the pool could be justified when our classes are jammed to the gills, our schools are overcrowded, and our teachers are underpaid. Over the past several months I’ve acknowledged that there is a need for addition year round indoor pool facilities in our county – that the facilities at Chinn, Dale City, and The Freedom Center are simply inadequate for a community of our size. As I’ve explained multiple times to anyone willing to listen, I’m not opposed to a pool in the school, just to having the school division manage and pay for it. To me, pools, and the programs in them like Mom and Me swimming classes or aquatic aerobics, are the responsibility of the Park Authority and not the school division.
I’ve changed my mind.
I don’t think the school division should build pools in the 12th, 13th, and 14th high schools, no mater who manages them or pays for them.
Northern Virginia Community College intends to build a sports complex in the eastern end of the county in their Woodbridge Campus near the location of the hotel conference center facility, which is currently under construction. NVCC’s complex will be similar to the Freedom Center, will be open to the public, and will have exercise facilities and indoor pools for swim teams and recreation.
The Quantico Devil Dolphins, a private club, are currently building an indoor swimming facility in the western end of the county near the Manassas Airport. The facility has two pools – one a shallow “warm” pool for lessons and recreation and the second a deep “cold” pool for swim teams and competitions. Several area swim clubs and high school swim teams have already expressed an interest in using the QDD facility. QDD’s facility is expected to open this fall.
The exercise facilities and pools that NVCC and QDD are building will fill the need in this community for additional year round indoor swimming facilities. They are exactly what this community needs, yet the school division is continuing ahead with plans to build 6 pools in the next 3 high schools PWCS will build.
The 12th, 13th , and 14th high schools will each have two indoor pools included in their designs. The school pool facilities will be similar to the QDD facility, with a deep “cold” pool for swim teams and competitions and a shallow “warm” pool for lessons, classes, and recreation.
In multiple meetings held over the past several days, Melissa Peacor, the Chief Executive of Prince William County, and Dr Steve Walts, the Superintendent of Prince William County Schools, met with the heads of NVCC and other individuals to discuss NVCC’s plans for their sports complex. At these meetings Mrs Peacor reportedly told Dr Walts and the attendees that fees received from the public for pool usage might be sufficient to cover pool operating costs, but would never cover debt service costs. She reportedly told meetings attendees that the pools in the 12th, 13th , and 14th high schools would happen no matter what NVCC, QDD, or anyone else did. (see UPDATE below)
Interesting. I wasn’t aware that Mrs Peacor had the authority to make anything of that magnitude happen. I thought that only the Board of County Supervisors and School Board had the authority to approve such deals.
A feasibility study must be conducted before the sports complex in Woodbridge can be built. The cost of this study will reportedly be about $400,000, which is less than the cost of one year of debt service on one school pool. Mrs Peacor apparently expressed concerns about asking the BOCS for the $400,000 for the feasibility study and has reportedly asked NVCC to split the cost.
QDD is a done deal. It will open its doors in a few months. It’s a private facility that will be available to the public but and will cost county residents nothing to operate or manage. The NVCC sports complex isn’t a done deal, yet, but in my opinion, it’s a great idea. This county could really benefit from another sports complex like the Freedom Center. This county doesn’t need six pools in schools that are only available to the public for limited hours each day and take increasingly scarce resources away from our classrooms and teachers.
In lieu of QDD and NVCC’s plans, I have to wonder why the school division would even consider building pools in the next three high schools. Every day we hear complaints about how the school division doesn’t have the funds to do x or y or z. How can PWCS even consider spending $550,000 or more a year in debt service to operate one school pool when we’re canceling programs that benefit our students and community? Why not use the money that would have been spent on debt service and operating costs for the pools on classrooms? While the money may be minor in a $1.3 billion budget, it’s still money that could make a difference in our classrooms.
The private sector has stepped in and is filling our communities need for additional indoor swim and exercise facilities. The school pools didn’t make sense before and make even less sense now. In my opinion, they should be eliminated from the school division’s construction plans and the school division should get back to focusing on educating our children.
Obviously I did not write this clearly as I’ve gotten the same question from several different people. Please accept my apologies for that. Rather than re-write and try to clarify, I thought I’d post an update.
(1) The school division hopes to build pools in the next three high schools. The 13th and 14th high schools will have designs that are similar to the 12th high school. The 12th high school will have two pools – a competition pool and a learning / therapy pool. 2 x 3 = 6, hence 6 pools.
(2) I don’t have any concerns with Dr Walts. He attended meetings I’d expect him to attend in his capacity as Superintendent of PWC Schools. It is his job to meet with the heads of local colleges and universities about our county and school division.
(3) Other than Mrs Peacor reportedly making promises about things that haven’t been approved yet, I don’t have any concerns with anything Mrs Peacor may have said. It is her job to meet with the heads of businesses, other counties and cities near us, and local colleges and universities in our area about issues that may affect our community.
(4) My concern is that the school division and county apparently plan to continue ahead with the school pools, despite knowing that two different entities will be providing pool facilities that will be available to the public for competition and recreation at no cost to the taxpayers. My concern is with the plan to build pools at not just one high school, but the next three high schools to be built in the county, without disclosing that anywhere in the CIP. My concern was and remains how the school division can consider the added expense of providing pool complexes when it is struggling to provide for basic student needs. In my opinion, if there are private sector solutions that will fill the need for additional swimming facilities in our community at no cost to taxpayers, then it makes no sense for the school division to spend increasingly scarce resources building swimming facilities in our high schools.