Fourteen members of the community spoke to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education at its Monday night meeting about the future of the Skyview High School pool.
While there was no item calling for action concerning the pool on the board’s agenda, the board has discussed closing the pool in efforts to shrink a $4.5 million shortfall.
Luke Baumer, who is the pool lead, said the only reason the pool is still running is through community support. However, he said the pool is firstly for the students and wants to see the school be able to offer more aquatic activities. He suggested before the board makes any decisions to see the pool adapt to the reconfiguration and the middle school students that will be moving into the building.
Skyview student and swim instructor, Scott Wertz, said having the pool available to teach young kids to swim is an important aspect of water safety.
“(Knowing how to swim) can help save lives,” he said.
Laura McIndoe, who works in special education at Soldotna Middle School, said the pool allows intensive needs students to be themselves and not be restricted. McIndoe said she swims at the pool three times a week. Swimming is a great stress reliever and it helps her to be a better teacher, she said.
Peggy Larson, of Soldotna, said she has been swimming at the pool for two years for her health.
“Lap swimming is saving my life,” she said.
She said it is a huge resource in the community and every time she is there she sees two to three other community members utilizing the pool for physical therapy.
Soldotna Mayor Dr. Nels Anderson also described the Skyview pool as a community resource. Not only does Anderson take his Boy Scout troop there, but he also spoke to the health benefits the pool provides for groups like cardiac rehabilitation patients. While it’s a tough decision, he said he hopes agencies — like the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the City of Soldotna — along with the community can explore options and work together to keep the pool in operation.
Board President Joe Arness said the board members will be looking at the budget and discussing alternative ways to keep the pool opening during the coming months.
District Superintendent Dr. Steve Atwater said he has received many emails about the cutting of funding for the Skyview pool and said the funding for the pool only represents about 1/1000 of the budget.
In a work session prior to Monday’s meeting the board and administration discussed a request for more information filed by board member Daniel Castimore. In the form, Castimore asks for more information about how schools in the district use their pools broken down into hours for different purposes — swim team practice, for-credit classes, private swim lessons and public use time. He also requests information about costs and how another party operating the pool would affect the district’s funding cap. He writes, in the request form, that with the board also considering cutting teachers and each pool representing two to three teacher salaries the board needs to examine who is paying for the district’s pools.
Board member Tim Navarre said the request asks too many questions. Castimore said he could request a general report, but that information needs to be provided for possible parties interested in operating the facility.
“I want to make sure we don’t have to close this pool if we don’t have to,” Castimore said.
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