By Noah Alatza
The Westfield Washington Board of School Trustees met May 8 and hosted a public hearing regarding the future of the district’s aquatic facilities. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in a special session at 7:30 p.m. May 15 at the Westfield Intermediate School, 326 W. Main St.
The trustees hosted the first of two public meetings regarding the aquatics center and voted unanimously to approve another hearing at a special session of the board May 15.
In early May, Westfield Washington Schools released a statement following concern from community members that no aquatic space in district construction renderings.
“There is no pool space indicated within the drawings of the preliminary designs for the construction projects,” the statement said.
The cost to strictly maintain both pools at Westfield Middle School and Westfield High School would cost nearly $20 million, not including upgrades.
Board President Dan Degnan said the future of the aquatic program is important to the community and the school district as a whole. He thanked the packed audience of swim team members and their families.
Asked why the plans regarding an upgraded aquatics area were not added during last year’s $90 million referendum, Supt. Sherry Grate said after reviewing several factors during demographic studies, the project was not feasible at the time.
Grate said removing the pools at WHS and WMS will add a combined 8,000 square feet of instructional space for new band and choir areas.
The district’s demographic study suggests close to 3,000 students could attend WHS by 2027.
Grate said an off-site location for the pool was the best option to accommodate more students.
“We know instructional space at the high school is a premium” Grate said. “School administrators and architects have been exploring several aquatic centers in Indiana to prioritize future needs.”
Grate said that moving forward with sustainable, long-term plans will meet the comprehensive needs of students and staff.
At the May 7 Advisory Plan Commission meeting, it was announced that the Wheeler family and Westfield Washington Schools would enter into a non-binding memorandum of understanding to open a new natatorium as part of an upgraded YMCA at the southwest corner of Wheeler Road and 181st Street.
Grate said the goal is to operate the WHS pool until fall of 2020, with a ground breaking on the YMCA scheduled for spring 2019.
Andy Wheeler, a 1968 Westfield High School graduate, said his family was excited about the program and partnering with WWS and the YMCA.
“To put a Class A facility together (is) a wise use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.
Westfield High School Head Swimming Coach Derek Thomas said the new facility would open up opportunities for a lot of different activities.
“We view it as not only a competitive advantage but also a great opportunity for the community of Westfield,” he said.
Westfield High School Athletic Director Bill Davis said the Wheeler family’s generosity is something that is a teachable moment for students
“It is a great lesson for the kids,” he said. “This is a very generous situation we have here.”
Grate said senior officials have begun to have future conversations about what the non-binding agreement looks like once a memorandum of understanding is complete.
“We can release designs and the next phase of that in three to four months, maybe sooner than that,” Grate said.