Although the modernization of Frederick High School is supposed to bring much-needed updates to the 73-year-old school, some parents fear that the project could potentially take away what they say is one of the school’s greatest assets — its swimming pool.
“There is a fear, and there is a buzz in the air,” said Mark Kavanaugh, a parent and one of the founders of Frederick County Advocates for Swim Teams, a swimming advocacy group.
That fear is generated by the school system’s standard design for high schools, which does not include a swimming pool.
While the Frederick County Board of Education has yet to decide if the renovated Frederick High School, expected to be complete in 2017, will include a pool, the school system has already received around 60 emails from parents concerned that the school could lose that feature in the modernization.
Kavanaugh’s group has also heard from parents, and the group plans to advocate for keeping the Frederick High pool at the next community meeting on the modernization, which was Wednesday after The Gazette’s deadline. The meeting was scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. at Frederick High School, at 650 Carroll Parkway.
“I am not going to get too alarmed until I see an option without a pool,” Kavanaugh said. “It is such a community asset that to do a renovation without including it would be a tragedy for Frederick County.”
In the county, three high schools — Frederick, Middletown and Walkersville high schools — have their own pools that serve swimmers from throughout the school system. So a potential loss of the Frederick High pool could affect swimmers from all parts of the county.
There are 445 students on swim teams countywide as part of Frederick County Public Schools athletics, according to Michael Doerrer, the school system spokesperson.
Beth Pasierb, a school system facilities planner, said school officials are aware of the concerns and will try to take them into consideration as they move forward with the modernization of the outdated Frederick High building.
However, school-based swimming pools are expensive to maintain, and are not necessary for schools to meet their curricular requirements, Pasierb said.
The last time Frederick County Public Schools opened a school-based swimming pool was in 1981 at Frederick High School, according to Pasierb.
The pool today does not meet many of the requirements of USA Swimming, the national governing body of competitive swimming in the United States, Pasierb said.
The Frederick High pool has seven lanes instead of eight, it is not accessible for students with disabilities, and its pumps and other mechanical parts are at the end of their lifespans, Pasierb said.
The school system studied the pool’s condition as part of the ongoing feasibility study of Frederick High, the first step in the school construction planning process.
As part of the study, school officials have been evaluating the current condition of the school, which was originally built in 1939 and is the oldest high school in the county.
It was last modernized in the 1970s and has been waiting for an update for about a decade.
As part of the feasibility study, school system officials are also holding a number of community meetings and have been encouraging teachers, students, parents and alumni to participate in the process by offering their ideas.
Using all the information gathered during the study, officials will determine if the school system will renovate the entire school, rebuild portions of it or raze the entire building.
By the end of October, school officials hope to have a few different modernization options along with price estimates. Replacing the pool and its cost will be included among these options, Pasierb said.
While the facilities staff will make a recommendation to the board, ultimately school board members will decide how to go about modernizing the school and whether it will continue to have a pool, she said.
“The board will have their own public hearing,” Pasierb said.
School officials hope to begin designing the modernized building in 2013 and start construction in 2015. The new school. which is expected to open in the fall of 2017, is expected to cost about $75 million, Pasierb said.
School board member Donna Crook, an advocate for swimming in Frederick County, said she is worried that potentially losing the Frederick High pool could harm the swimming program countywide.
“It would be crushing for Frederick County if they build Frederick High School without a pool,” said Crook, whose child, a student at Urbana High School, uses the pool for swimming practice.
With three pools serving 10 high schools, it is difficult for swimmers to schedule swimming practice, which is why some students often end up having practice until 9 p.m., Crook said.
That would get even worse if the county closes the swimming pool at Frederick High, she said.
“It is very, very critical to keep the third pool,” she said.