Tulsa Schools Swap Pools For Classrooms To Save Money

Wednesday, April 9th 2014, 7:01 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa school board voted to eliminate pools at several schools, as part of a continuing effort to save money on maintenance and staffing.

The pool at Edison High School is cracked and the pumps need work; so instead of rebuilding it, Tulsa Public Schools has shut it down, not for good yet, but that's in the plans.

A dozen other schools have pools with similar problems, so the district is tearing almost all of them out and replacing them with classrooms.

In Tulsa Public Schools, Booker T. has the newest and nicest pool. It's also the last one left that's functional and the right size for competition.

Swim Coach Adina Norman is concerned about the sport, as more schools shut down their pools.

"You see the sport that you love, and you see how many schools and potential teams you could have for TPS, and it becomes, sad," Norman said.

The Booker T. swim center is big enough to host competitions, and it's now where the Edison team trains as well. It's the focal point for the TPS swim program. The district once had 25 pools, but the number is dropping.

Pools at Anderson, Hamilton, Lewis & Clark, Chouteau and Hale Junior High have already been eliminated and replaced with classrooms.

In the next phase, the pools at Bell, Gilcrease, Skelly, Webster, Wright and Roosevelt will be filled in.

And, in what's likely to be the next step, more pools at Central, East Central High, East Central Junior High, Edison, Hale High, Memorial, McLain and Rogers will close, leaving only three pools for the whole district, at Monroe, Thoreau and Booker T.

Bob LaBass, with Tulsa Public Schools, said, "If we can't fix them up and maintain them after that, that's the issue, it's just a constant increased expense for us."

The district will eliminate the next set of pools this summer, so classrooms can open this fall.

At Booker T., interest in the swim program is increasing because of the facility, while at other schools like Edison; the travel time for practice makes it difficult.

"It does deplete the program when you don't have the pool, they don't swim, and I'm trying to grasp and keep it alive so we don't lose the swimmers, and the sport," Norman said.

Closing pools to save money is also a trend at the city of Tulsa, and this week Metro Christian, a private school, announced they're converting their pool into classrooms as well.

TPS will do that at six more schools this summer. The Edison pool will stay for now, but it and seven others are likely to go in a few years.