MOUNT PLEASANT — Members of the Case High School swim teams and their supporters are frustrated, sad and angry that their pool will sit empty this year. But mostly, they want to know how Racine Unified is going to fix this problem that will have them traveling to either Park or Horlick high schools for this year’s practices and meets.
One incoming senior who has been on the Case girls team for the past three years decided to quit the team this year because of the uncertain schedule.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Maya Stillman, 17.
Racine Unified has known for at least the past few years that the Case High School needed a new pool.
But definitive plans did not materialize, and now the existing pool is out of commission for at least the next school year. Case’s pool dates to the school’s opening, Sept. 7, 1966.
Team supporters frustrated
Holly Krien, who was the swim team booster club president for the past four years, said the district has a history of prioritizing projects for other sports before the swim team.
“All around the pool they’ve renovated to top notch facilities,” Krien said.
Krien and Lisa Hart, who took over as booster club president this year, both said they were frustrated that a new gym floor and bleachers at Case were prioritized over a new pool.
“RUSD failed miserably and they know it,” Krien said.
In 2015, the district renovated some of Case’s athletic facilities, but this did not include the pool. The changes included new flooring for the field house, a track along the perimeter of the floor and new bleachers. The locker rooms were also completely gutted and redesigned.
In the past, the district had been able to fix leaks in the aging pool, but this year the leaks compromised the integrity of the pool walls and made it unsafe for swimming, according to Stacy Tapp, Racine Unified’s chief of communication and community engagement.
“Each year that we’ve had issues with the Case pool, we’ve been able to make repairs that did not divert funds from other much-need, student-centered projects,” Tapp said.
She said student safety was the top priority when deciding to close the pool this year.
In spring 2015, a new pool at Case was included in the district’s list of 350 maintenance projects to be completed in the following 10 years. The new pool was the most expensive item on the list at $3 million. Dave Hazen, Unified’s chief operating officer at the time the list was adopted, expected that Unified would set a construction plan for the pool within the next three years. That was more than three years ago and no plan has been set. He estimated that pool construction would take around 18 months.
According to Tapp, Unified’s new COO Shannon Gordon, who replaced Hazen after his retirement from the district last November, is working on a long-term facilities master plan to bring to the School Board.
Tapp said this plan will address the situation with Case’s pool, as well as the needs at Park and Horlick. The pools at both of those schools are also more than 50 years old.
“We need to consider not just the Case pool, but all three high school pools and determine a long-term solution that will meet the needs of all students and student-athletes,” Tapp said.
An engineer inspected the Case pool Aug. 3, but the district is still waiting for the report and Tapp didn’t know when it would be available. She said that Unified will be looking at short-term as well as long term solutions.
Krien said the situation was especially sad because some students attend Case specifically to swim for the school’s longtime and successful boys and girls coach, Frank Michalowski.
Team looks for solutions
According to Stillman, she and her teammates found out the pool would be closed this year about two weeks ago, only a week before practices were set to begin.
“The whole team was really upset,” she said.
She said she’d planned her fall schedule around what she thought would be the team’s practice times, right after school. But now they will likely be training later in the evening at the Park pool, after the Park team finishes practice. That wouldn’t leave much time for work and homework, she said. So, she made the tough decision to quit the team.
Taylor Knaus, 16-year-old junior, has been swimming at Case since her freshman year and has been club swimming since she was in 5th grade.
Knaus said initially she was angry about the situation with the pool, but after she cooled down, she was just sad. A few days after they found out that the pool would be closed this year, she and her teammates met at her house to brainstorm possible solutions.
They plan to attend the School Board meeting Aug. 20 to share their thoughts and ideas.
Although they’d love to see the pool fixed this season, they realize that isn’t realistic, but hope it will be open next year.
At present, the team is having midday practices at the Park pool, but Knaus said the schedule for the school year, which begins Sept. 4, is still up in the air.
Knaus said she knew of three team members, including Stillman, who had quit because of the pool closure and uncertain scheduling.
And even the girls who stay on the team might have to miss evening practices due to work, Knaus said.
Tapp said the district will provide the swim team with transportation to its practices at Park.
“RUSD failed miserably and they know it.” Holly Krien, former Case Swim Team Booster Club president