Pool to close next school year

Palo Alto High School’s plans to construct a $20 million athletics facility have created unforeseen obstacles that will cause the school’s pool to close for the entire 2014-15 school year, according to a construction manager.

Tom Hodges, the manager of the Palo Alto Unified School District’s bond program, made the announcement at a Facilities Steering Committee meeting on Oct. 23.  While the initial hope was to keep the pool undisturbed, many of the pool’s utilities extend toward the Quad and will consequently be interrupted during the construction of the new athletic facility, rendering the pool inoperative, Hodges told committee members.

The construction on Palo Alto High School's new athletic facility will interrupt the school's pool utilities, causing the pool to be closed for the 2014-2015 school year, according to bond manager Tom Hodges. The construction was not initially meant to disrupt the pool. The facility's 14 month-long construction will begin in June. Photo by Tolbert Design Architects.
The construction on Palo Alto High School’s new athletic facility will interrupt the school’s pool utilities, causing the pool to be closed for the 2014-2015 school year, according to bond manager Tom Hodges. The construction was initially supposed to leave the pool in operation. The facility’s 14 month-long construction will begin in June. Image by Tolbert Design Architects.

With the pool out of order for a year, changes will be made to school programs that utilize the pool, according to Athletic Director Earl Hansen and Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson.

Paly’s water polo and swim practices, games and meets will all be relocated to aquatic facilities around Palo Alto. No definite plans have been made as of yet, but the considered facilities include those of Stanford University, Gunn High School and Terman Middle School, according to Hansen.

The school is working to find the best-suited alternatives to the Paly pool, according to Hansen.

“We’re trying to get the best places we can that are convenient, too,” Hansen said. “The more options we have [to choose from], the better we can accommodate our kids.”

In addition, there will not be a swim unit for Physical Education next year given the circumstances. PAUSD requires freshmen and new students to pass a swim test, and students need to take 20 credits-worth of Physical Education to graduate from Paly, according the school’s course catalog. Consequently, students will have to make up the swim unit in the following years to meet district requirements, according to Physical Education Instructional Supervisor Peter Diepenbrock.

Student swimmers and water polo players expressed concerns with their respective seasons next year.

“Transportation will be a huge hassle, especially with all the meets,” sophomore swimmer and water polo player Sophia Xu said.

While acknowledging the merits of the athletics facility, which will include a new strength and conditioning room, wrestling room, gyms and locker rooms, students still have issues with the lack of a home team pool.

“It’s going to be hard for the duration of the season, especially not having the Paly pool for meets and competitions, which makes each meet an away meet,” senior swimmer Karina Goot said. “At the end, though, it’s for the better because the facilities are going to be much nicer for the school as a whole, and the locker rooms and gym are going to look great.”

Students also believe the pool closing will disrupt the usual flow of the season.

“It [the facilities construction] is good for the future, but … it’ll be a loss for seniors at their last swim season, as well as the rest of the team,” junior swimmer Ryan Drover said.

However, despite these drawbacks, Hansen believes the ultimate outcome is promising.

“Next year’s going to be hard,” Hansen said. “The rewards are going to be great.… It’s going to be a great facility, but for one year, it’ll be a mess.”

Berkson shares Hansen’s sentiments.

“It’s going to be a major inconvenience for one year for a lot of people because you’ve got parking involved, you’ve got people not being able to swim at home and you’ve got to travel somewhere for practices,” Berkson said. “But a year from then, we’ll have a pretty darn nice facility.”

Nonetheless, Drover is confident that the Paly teams are strong enough to face these future difficulties.

“In the end, whatever happens, we have the team that can get through it to succeed,” Drover said.

The 14 month-long construction of the athletic facility, funded by the local Peery family’s donation of $20 million, is set to begin in June.