Parents ask school board not to close West Jordan pool


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WEST JORDAN -- Parents pleaded with the Jordan School Board Tuesday night to keep the West Jordan Middle School swimming pool open.

Back in June, the board voted to close the only school-operated pool in the district in order to save $125,000. The decision came in a year where the district must make up a budget deficit in the tens of millions of dollars, but parents argue the services the pool provides are too valuable to cut.

The West Jordan Middle School pool provides for "freestyle" swimming, but it also offers swimming lessons, lifesaving and merit badge classes, as well as a place for water polo and swim teams to practice.

"I have two special needs kids who have thrived in their program," said Marci Peacock. "My little one started this year. She's 3 years old, and it's all she talks about."

Peacock was so upset about learning the pool will close that she helped put together this petition that netted more than 400 signatures

Pool director Kay Cherrington feels the same way. She said parents were more than willing to sign the petition and add messages urging the board to keep the pool open.

"We have people come from all over the south end of the valley for swimming lessons at our pool. They pass other pools on the way," Cherrington said.

She added that she does not understand why the board recently invested thousands of dollars in renovations and other needs only to close it now.

"They put in new diving blocks, and they're anywhere from $700 to $1,000 apiece, and we've got six of them," Cherrington said.

A survey of other school districts found Granite District has the most school pools, but the majority of schools use community facilities.

Jordan School District has negotiated a deal with the Kearns Fitness Center, which is outside district boundaries, for swim teams to use its pool for the next 25 years. It will cost the district a one-time payment of $1 million.

"The total agreement works out to $44,000 a year," said Steven Dunham, spokesman for the Jordan School District.

To do so, the district will use capital funds -- a budget in the black.

District administrators use the services and maintenance account to manage the West Jordan Middle School and say it's illegal to transfer money from one account to another. They also say maintaining the pool over the next 25 years would cost a total $4 million, or $125,000 a year.

"The total budget deficit is $29.1 million dollars, and $125,000 in one specific location makes a big difference," Dunham said.

At the end of the meeting, the board did not ask that the pool be put back on the agenda for further discussion, although that still could be done at a later date. If board members do not change their minds, the pool will close Nov. 1.

The board president did tell the crowd the board is trying to make the best possible decisions for the entire district, but the crowd left pretty disappointed.

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Story compiled with contributions from Sarah Dallof and Nkoyo Iyamba.

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