The school district’s indoor pool was a main topic of discussion at the Lincoln County School District No. 1 school board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Middle school swimming coaches and several parents of middle school swimmers were present at the meeting to discuss their concerns.
Originally a $3.5 million bond had been approved to pay for the complete pool renovation. The renovation, which was supposed to be completed in phases, began in April of this year.
“We were making great progress, and then when we removed two drains, part of the deck collapsed because there was just a void under there with nothing supporting the deck,” said LCSD No. 1 superintendent Teresa Chaulk.
This unanticipated issue occurred in late July. In an email to the Gazette after the problem was found, Chaulk said:
“The entire deck will be removed, a new plumbing (drainage) system will be installed, and a new deck will be poured. The good news is we can repair it. The bad news is this will detract from other planned renovations. There was no indication of this issue, but we have to repair it correctly which will take time and money. No one can believe how well the deck held up for all these years with no support.”
At the board meeting, Chaulk reminded the board and the public that the rest of the pool renovations are on hold — including installing new bleachers — until the issues with the deck can be solved.
“Before we can move forward, three things have to be checked off,” Chaulk said. “We need to test the compaction underneath the pool, we have to test a core sample of the pool shell and have it come back OK, and we need to check the pressure of our pipes.”
Chaulk said she knows the slow progress is frustrating to student athletes and community members, but there is no other option now. Originally the pool updates were to be completed in time for the high school girls’ swim team to practice and compete, but the deck problems prevented that. Chaulk said until the tests come back and the repairs can be started on, there is no set completion date for the pool – it could be January, May, or even this same time next year.
“We have to do tests regardless of the costs,” Chalk said. “We’re diligently working on getting the pool back up and running.”
The Kemmerer High School girls’ team currently travels a few days a week to practice in the Evanston swimming pool.
“We had already replaced the air handlers before we knew there was a problem underneath the deck,” Chaulk said. “Now because of these problems, there’s no money for the grand plans we had outside of fixing the actual pool.”
Because of the unforseen deck issues, the junior high swim teams will also face the problem of no pool to practice in. Chaulk and the board members agreed that the travel and scheduling will be a challenge for middle school athletes, but the teams should still compete in the upcoming seasons.
Kemmerer swim club coach B.J. Teuscher was present at the meeting.
“I take pride in coaching these kids and hate to see them lose the opportunity to compete,” Teuscher said.
“If money is an issue (with the renovations), the swim club could help out and look at getting grants and money from local companies,” Teuscher continued. He offered to act as a liaison for the swim teams, the Kemmerer swim club, surrounding towns, schools and pool facilities to make something work for the middle school swimmers.
“The entire southwest would help us out; there’s no doubt about that,” Chaulk said. “But it’s about coordinating and not putting too much strain on those middle school athletes.”
Middle school girls’ swim coach Heidi Despain was present at the meeting to voice concerns and offer input to the school board as a parent of swimmers and a coach. One issue the middle school swimmers will face is not having a pool to practice for the first few weeks of the season because of scheduling issues with other school pools.
“Those first couple of weeks are the most important, and we want to get them in the water,” Despain said. “I guess if our options are dry-land training or even one or two days of swimming or nothing at all, we’ll take what we can get. But then if we send these swimmers to meets, are we setting them up to fail?”
“In a perfect world, we’d be in the pool every day,” Despain continued. “These kids perform differently in the water. This sport is as much mental as it is physical.”
School board member Doug Hunter concluded that Chaulk, the coaches and the board should continue to research all the options for the middle school swimmers.
“When we’re using other school’s facilities, it’s not about money really, but more about transportation, availability and scheduling,” said board chairman Don Lamborn.
Chaulk said another concern the district would need to address is the potential bad weather middle school girl swimmers could face when traveling to other towns to practice. The team’s season starts in January.
“Weather here can turn on a dime, and we could have 20 middle school swimmers stuck in Evanston or Lyman with no way to get back,” Chaulk said. “That’s something we’d have to prepare both the swimmers and the parents for.”
The school board and parents and coaches present agreed that this year would not be a normal swimming season for the Kemmerer Junior High athletes.
They said it probably wouldn’t be the ideal year for junior high athletes to try out swimming for the first time, because of the increased time commitment and limited practice in the water.
“I’ve noticed that these kids from Kemmerer don’t quit,” Teuscher said. “We can’t really go in telling them that they won’t do well right off the bat, because that kind of talk could really take its toll on a swimmer.”
The other parents and board members agreed that the coaches and parents of swimmers would need to balance realistic expectations for the season with encouraging the student athletes to succeed at meets.
“As soon I get an actual schedule of the pool testing procedures and have more of a set plan, I will post it on (the district’s) Facebook,” Chaulk said.
The next LCSD No. 1 school board meeting is on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 7:00 p.m. at the administration building on Adaville Drive in Diamondville.