Pools at a premium in Jordan School District
Feb 07, 2019 01:56PM
By Greg James
A large crowd watches on at the Region 2 swim finals last season. Many successful swim programs have added access to pools making it easier to train their participants. (Greg James/City Journals)
By Greg James | [email protected]
There are five and soon to be six high schools in the Jordan School District. They have only two swimming pools (soon to be one) among them for practices and swim meets.
The coaches and participants are losing the Marv Jenson facility in South Jordan and currently use JL Sorenson in Herriman. Some of the participants are becoming frustrated.
“It is disappointing when the district spends millions on other sanctioned sports but not as much on swim,” Herriman head coach Michael Goldhardt said.
Other coaches have seen their programs diminish also.
“I think as we look around at our schools, we see a big decline in the swimming programs,” second-year West Jordan swim coach Tim Pollock said. “We are down to about 18 swimmers this season. I was on the West Jordan swim team in 2008. Ten years ago, we won the state championship and had at least 45 swimmers. There are times when half my kids can’t make it to practice because of transportation or other issues.”
The Jaguar swim team, in conjunction with the school district, rents practice time at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center across the street from Kearns High School. Pollock said not having a local pool changes the makeup of his team.
“It definitely affects us,” he said. “There are no youth programs in the area. Swimming needs kids that have experience from a young age. The local club teams have strong high school teams nearby. Of my 18 kids, only six have ever swam before. Only one did a youth program. We are lucky to use Kearns, and they have been fantastic to work with, but we share the pool space with Kearns and Copper Hills at the same time.”
The Granite School District is rebuilding Skyline and Cyprus high schools pools, each at the cost of about $4 million.
“I am not sure if Jordan District needs to be in the pool building business,” Pollock said. “I think the cities should look into building a useable facility, not just for recreation but for competitive swimmers. I think that would be a positive step forward.”
Jordan School District board member Darrell Robinson has been championing the swim teams’ cause. He presented his ideas to the school board in late 2017.
“This is a big need for our community,” he said. “It is something that we need to take care of. I posted it on Facebook and got 32,000 hits. By far, the swimming community feels under-served. My kids don’t swim very well because we don’t have access to pools close by.”
Swimming pools can be longtime purchases. They can last 50-60 years. The school district is trying to decide if building the pool or searching for usable space is its most desirable solution, according to Robinson. Opposition to the idea claims the yearly operating costs could be expensive.
“It is interesting, from what I have seen, the yearly budget is about $100,000,” Robinson said. “It’s not as bad as I expected. I think sharing the pool and raising money through rental fees and city contributions could be the way to offset some of that cost. This problem comes from decades of neglect, and we have learned we cannot put a pool by every school.”
Swimming is a life skill that has a value that cannot be attached. Robinson hopes to help swim teams increase participation and skill level.
“It would be tragic if we had a football team without a football field or a basketball team without a court,” Robinson said. “If we are going to build these comprehensive high schools, then we need to offer the facilities to match it. If we want to do away with that then we should not offer the programs. This has become a high priority to the board, and it is changing every day. We have lots of options. Some could be done sooner, but we want to make the right decision because it lasts for decades.”
As for this season, the teams will continue to share space and work to become better.
“My team is dropping times and getting better,” Pollock said. “We hope to get better and increase our numbers.”