School Pool – What You Should Know and Why You Should Care

PWCS plans on building a two pool, $10.5 million aquatics complex attached to the 12th high school.  The school and aquatics complex will open in the fall of 2016 and will house 2,053 students.  Below is what you need to know about it and why you should care, even if you don’t have children or grandchildren in public school.

Where will the school and aquatics complex be located?

The school and aquatics complex will be located beside the county landfill on 234.  Access to the school and aquatics complex will be via 234.  People in the eastern end of the county consider this to be be west end while people on the western end of the county consider this to be the east end. The school and aquatics complex will be approximately 10 miles from Woodbridge high school and 10 miles from Patriot high school.  This site was specifically chosen for the 12th high school as it was centrally located.

How much will to cost and where will the money come from?

The aquatics complex is projected to cost about $10.5 million to build.  The money to build the complex, like all construction projects in the county, will be provided through bonds.  Those bonds will have to be paid back over 20 years, plus interest.  The annual payback, called debt service in accountant speak, will be about $723,000 a year, on average.

Expenses associated with operating the pool have not be prepared because the school division has not developed a staffing plan for the facility.  A rough guesstimate of $800,000 per year was suggested at the school board meeting on June 5, 2013 by a school board member and was not dismissed by the school division.

The school division expects to recoup 100% of the aquatic complex’s operating expenses through public usage fees. The aquatics complexes at Chinn and Dale City Centers cover 100% of their operating expenses, however, the pools in Arlington Counties high schools have never recouped more than 50% of their operating costs.

Annual debt service expense and the expenses associated with operating the pool will be paid out the annual allocation of tax receipts PWCS receives from PWC.

What does that mean for the school division’s operating budget?

The debt service  and operating expenses associated with the pool will be paid out of the school division’s allocation of tax receipts from the county, money that is used to provide for school operations, like classrooms, utilities, transportation, and faculty salaries.  Because the allocation goes to debt service first, then the operating fund, that means the amount of money available to support school operations will be reduced by the debt service associated with the pool.

What sort of programs will be provided for students at the aquatics complex?

The school division envisions providing swimming lessons to 4th grade and middle school students across the county during the school day, hydro-therapy to special needs students,  lanes for swim teams to practice, and deep water for the underwater robotics teams to practice.

Students in forth grade and middle school will be bused from their base school to the aquatics complex for 1 week of swimming lessons.  Maximum time away from the classroom for swimming lessons is projected to be from 2 – 4 hours per day, depending on the distance traveled, every day for one week.

High School swim teams will be allowed to use the aquatics complex for swim team practice.  Not every high school team in the county is expected to use the aquatics complex; for instance, the swim team at Patriot high school is  expected to remain at the Vint Hill facility in Fauquier County and the swim team at Battlefield high school is expected to remain at the Freedom Center on GMU’s Innovation campus.

School division staff expect that high school swim teams will only use the aquatics complex about 2 hours a night, as each team would be allocated 4 lanes and 3 – 4 teams would practice at the same time.  With 60 students on a swim team, that means 15 students per lane.  The school division expects to average lane fees so that schools that remain at other facilities will pay the same lane rental fees as schools using the aquatics complex.

Robotics teams will be allowed to use the aquatics complex to build and practice with their underwater robots.

Will the public be able to use the aquatics complex and what sort of programs will be provided to the public, for a fee, at the aquatics complex ?

The school division intends to open the aquatics complex to the public, even during school hours when elementary and middle school students are using it for school sponsored swimming lessons.  Whether members of the public would have to have their IDs scanned and checked against the Raptor system to use the pool is unknown. The Raptor system runs driver’s licenses through the sexual predator database and felon database so that known sexual predators and convicted felons can be denied access to school facilities.  Every person entering school facilities must have the driver’s license scanned through the Raptor system, even Mom’s having lunch with their children.

The school division hopes to provide classes in aquatic aerobics, scuba lessons, swimming lessons, Mom and me classes, and lifeguard training.  In addition the competition pool will provide swim lanes for private year round clubs, diving boards, and the learning pool will provide a slide and play equipment.

What does the aquatics complex look like?

You can find the PWCS presentation here.

Has PWC Parks and Recreation been involved in this process?

Representatives from PWC Parks and Recreation have been consulting with the school division and the Moseley Architects, the company designing the 12th high school, to suggest what types of classes and recreation equipment should be provided in the aquatics complex to meet the maximum community need

Who will operate the aquatics complex and who will pay for it?

The aquatics complex will be operated and managed by the school division.  All costs associated with it will be paid by the school division.

Why isn’t Parks and Recreation operating the aquatics complex and paying for it?

In 2006 voters authorized PWC to issue $11 million in bonds for improvements to recreation facilities, including expanding the Chinn Center’s swim lanes.  The bonds were issued in 2011, but the swim lanes at the Chinn Center have not been expanded.  No one seems to know what that money was used for as it was not used for its intended purpose.

School division employees stated that the aquatics complex could be managed by parks and rec employees on a contract basis, but, at the present, the school division intends to operate the aquatics complex themselves.

Why does it matter if the school division or parks and recreation manages the aquatics complex?

The department of parks and recreation exists to provide indoor and outdoor recreation facilities for the public.  That is their primary purpose.  They run two year round indoor aquatics complexes in the county.  They have the staff on hand that know what classes the public wants and needs, know how to manage and schedule those classes, know how to recruit and train instructors for those classes, know how to recruit and train lifeguards and other safety personnel, and know how to manage a pool.  PWCS high school swim teams would still be able to use the aquatics complex for classes, hydro-therapy, and swim team practice, they would simply have to schedule time from the parks and recreation, just like they do now.

PWCS hasn’t operated a pool since the 80’s or 90’s.  They would have to hire brand new staff to organize and schedule classes, recruit and train instructors for those classes, recruit and train lifeguards and other safety personnel, recruit and train people to manage the pool, and provide systems to manage pool operations and class scheduling.  As a school resource, the primary function of the pool would be to provide for school functions, not public recreation.  Providing time for the public to use the aquatics complex would be would be secondary.

Why does it matter if the school division or parks and recreation  pays the debt service and operating expenses for the aquatics complex?

If the school division pays for all of the expenses associated with the aquatics complex, the money available for school operations, like classrooms, and teachers, and textbooks, will be reduced.  Reducing the money available for school operations by an additional $700,000 – $1 million a year means something will have to be cut or eliminated to pay for the aquatics complex.

This year, like every year since 2008, the school division’s operating budget was tight.  Classes are at their legal maximum, which means many middle and high school classes have 35 – 38 students in them.  We have the largest class sizes of any school division in the state by a significant margin.  Schools and departments across the school division are stretched to their breaking point, and proposed cuts in any department to divert funds for class size reductions were brushed aside as unreasonable.  Because the expenses for the pool will be recurring, something worth almost $1 million a year will have to be cut to pay for the pool.

Since parks and recreation already has the staff on hand to manage a pool and organize and schedule classes, the cost for them to operate the pool will likely be less than it will be for the school division.  Residents authorized $11 million to expand the recreation facilities in the county in 2006, so those bonds could be used to build the facility.

What if the aquatics complex isn’t built?

QDD will be opening an private swimming facility near the airport this fall and hopes to build other facilities in the county in a few years.  The QDD Manassas facility will be open to high school swim teams and private clubs and will likely open up additional capacity at the Freedom Center, though there will still be greater demand for indoor swim facilities than will be available.

NOVA has begun planning a sports complex like the Freedom Center on their Woodbridge campus that will have indoor pool facilities.  That facility is still in the early stages of planning with no projected delivery date available.

None of the BOCS members has providing additional indoor swim lanes as a priority in their list of needed projects.

Not that anyone cares or asked, but here’s my opinion.

It’s obvious to me that the swimming facilities in the county are inadequate to meet our community needs.  As I’ve stated a million times now, I think the aquatics complex is the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation department and should be operated and paid for by them.   If parks and rec was willing to run the facility, pay the debt service,  and pay all of the operating costs for the aquatics complex, then I would support it.  But I can not support the school division spending this much money for what amounts to a recreation facility.

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2 Responses to “School Pool – What You Should Know and Why You Should Care”

  1. T Says:

    OurSchools is opposed to a pool at this site even if Parks and Recreations footed the whole bill. Why?

    1. There is a high degree of risk in operating a pool on school property. This has not been addressed to our satisfaction.
    2. Parking, traffic impact and storm water retention need to be addressed if this facility is to opened and operated by the schools or Parks and Recreation. The site plans for this site have been altered for the original provided to the county. Square footage is significantly larger.
    3. We oppose anything that encourages people to come onto school property for non-school related activities while students are in the building. This is a basic safety concern.
    4. The one access to the school and pool will result in accidents on the 234 bypass and the potential loss of lives. In our opinion this is not an ideal location for a school, lets not compound the problems already associated with the property.
    5. The county owns land and can build a facility on it. In fact they own the land next door, the landfill.
    6. The residences on Independence Drive (off Hoadly Road) where “guaranteed” that their street would not be used as an entrance for the school. It is to be used for emergency reasons only. A portion of this road is dirt. We fear that this will change and that these owners will be learning about eminent domain in the future. Especially if the Tri-County Parkway is approved by the state.
    7. QDD has built a like kind Aquatic complex with a before and after school center and office space. The total cost including the purchase of the land and the existing building (repurposed) is 5.6 million. The build out time is less than one year. QDD is proving that they can build it faster and for significantly less. Since their core focus is swimming, we believe they will build it better and operate it more efficiently. In fact they have to be more efficient, because they will not be thrown a life jacket by the county if they cannot cover their cost. They have taken not one penny from the county.
    8. PWC needs to encourage repurposing of properties that are sitting vacant. We need businesses and private investors committing resources to our county. QDD is an excellent example of the free market identifying a need and stepping up. This is what this county needs to encourage and promote.
    9. PWCS state that the cost of lane rentals may decrease if they increase demand. Lane rentals are low on our opinion. We know this because many of us are swim parents, coaches and former swim team board members. The price is a bargain compared to cost of the debt the schools want to pull.
    10. If the fees are forced down by supply and demand the county will have to increase it’s financial support to the county owned aquatic centers. Tax dollars will flow or lanes will close. Private investors, like QDD, will not want to invest in the future. Think about it, QDD invested because they looked at the need and the potential revenue. Will their facility be successful if PWCS falsely drives down the price of lanes? Remember schools can do this because the all cost will be covered by taxes in the end, truly they are no required to be profitable to operate. They will be altering market conditions, is this consistent with the values of our most Republican Leadership?
    11. One last point. High School recreational facilities are generally not open to the public in PWC. When they are available to recreational leagues, they leagues pay a rental fee. Rec league do regularly use the facilities and fields at outr elementary and middle schools. To make it clear, the schools are paid for the use of the recreational fields and gyms. The leagues bring their out staff. If gyms are used, as they often are for basketball, the leagues are also responsible for the cost of an attendant to monitor the gym. The money is paid to the Park Authority and should filter to the school system. Can you find that income on the budget? Please get to know the budget before you support this school.

  2. FPR Says:

    Look, this is absolute fiscal and professional irresponsibility on part of Dr. Steve Walts, Milt Johns (Chairman PWCS Board), Dr. Michael Otaigbe (also on the Board looking to cement his legacy in something…apparently his rambling diatribes at Board meetings not being enough), and the BOCS members backing this. All of these “officials” would be happy to bankrupt the county on this reprehensible folly, and leave parents and taxpayers wondering why we have 40-50 kids in each classroom after they buy these pools. Clearly the County BOCS has no appetite to build more swimming facilities under the Parks & Rec division – but they’re happy to let PWCS take this disaster on. So our school leadership is staffed with accomplished idiots – all of them ought to be fired and run out of office.

    The only good that will come of this is parents who give a damned about a good education for their kids will get the h*ll out of PWCS and move to Fairfax. Well done PWCS!


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