Community must find solution to keep Skyview pool open

  • Saturday, February 8, 2014 3:24pm
  • Opinion

Facing a potential funding shortfall of $4.5 million, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s administration and board of education are going to be making some tough decisions in the coming months — and some of them are not going to be popular.

That was certainly the case last Monday, when the board heard from numerous members of the community about the future of the pool at Skyview High School. The school will become a middle school for the 2014-15 school year, and the pool is on the chopping block.

There are good reasons to keep the pool open. Incorporating a swimming curriculum for middle school students would provide tremendous benefits, both in terms of teaching water safety in an area chock full of rivers and lakes, as well as providing them with a fitness and recreation activity they can pursue for the rest of their lives.

Indeed, hundreds of people of all ages and all walks of life take advantage of access to the pools in our area, not just at Skyview, but also at Soldotna High, Kenai Central High, and in Nikiski. They are used for lap swims, free swims, water aerobics, swim lessons, even physical therapy. It would be a shame to lose a community asset valued and utilized by so many people.

That said, facing a significant deficit, the school district’s priority needs to be on students in the classroom. Providing opportunities for community recreation should not come at the expense of classroom needs.

There are alternatives. Finding a non-profit organization to partner with is not unprecedented. In Kenai, for example, the Boys and Girls Club has taken over management of the city’s recreation center and teen center, with positive results.

Another option might be to establish a borough service area to use property taxes to help with operation of the central peninsula’s school pools for community use. In Nikiski, the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area, was established to construct and maintain recreation facilities.

Both of those options might take some time to establish. In the mean time, there are organizations, such as the Rasmuson Foundation, that provide grants to communities to enhance recreation opportunities. And there’s a chance that our legislators in Juneau may be able to find some funding that could be used to keep the facility running — in addition to helping this school district and others around the state meet budget shortfalls.

The bottom line is that if the community wants to find a way to keep the Skyview pool open, members are of the community are going to have to work with the school district to find a solution.

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