With the YMCA opting out from the Olin Y. Bignall Aquatic Center at the end of January, it has been suggested to close the pool facility to the public and allow only the high school competitive programs to continue. This definitely was not the original intent. It was built to save lives through swim instruction within our educational system.
The facility's existence and purpose continues to be realized: No student fatalities within our school district boundaries; students of all ages becoming proficient and realizing their swimming potential; a recreational environment for all ages; athletes attending colleges on scholarships with financial assistance; and employment opportunities for high school students as counter attendants, lifeguards or swim instructors.
What type of message is the Oregon Trail School Board and the district office sending out to our patrons? Certainly funding is an issue, and when unexpected events of this magnitude take place, the contingency fund is needed. A portion of this fund could be utilized to continue operating the pool for the rest of the year - offset by daily and monthly revenue.
Existing programs should be maintained when they are meeting the needs of the communities the district serves.
Our school district desperately needs a new high school. I agree completely and support that endeavor. It's much easier to put our energies toward that outcome, instead of fighting for the continued existence of a successful program and facility that has served the community for the past 40 years.
• A combined bond that would support a new high school and basic aquatic facility operations.
• A special park and recreation district within the boundaries of the school district. This may mean the school district would relinquish ownership. The dollars saved by transferring ownership (maintenance and daily operations) could be used to re-establish the educational swim instruction program at the grade levels originally intended.
• A joint partnership between Clackamas County, the city of Sandy and the school district. Or the school district, as intended, could administer daily operations.
In the meantime, we need a reliable organization experienced in aquatic management to be accountable and oversee daily operations. Time is needed to study all alternatives. The school board must keep the pool open during this transitional period. This would benefit everyone.
Mark Smith is the former director of the Olin Bignall Aquatic Center.