Facing the axe thanks to budget cuts by the Lake Washington School District, Juanita High School’s swimming pool has faced closure.
The threat of losing the pool would have had far-reaching effects, from the loss of community aquatics programs to the potential for four high schools to lose swimming programs.
But a familiar name has stepped up and secured the pool’s future – WAVE Aquatics.
Chose through the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, WAVE is set to take over management of the pool Sept. 1.
“We are very pleased to have received two extensive proposals for managing the Juanita Pool,” noted Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard in statement from the district. “I appreciate the work that went into them and the willingness to partner with us to offer this community resource.”
The choice for the district came down to WAVE and Northwest Center.
“Both are good organizations but we looked at the specific proposals and WAVE had the one we were looking for,” said Lake Washington School District Director of Communications Katheryn Reith.
With the new contract, the district will be able to cut the $150,000 operating costs of the pool from its budget. The district and WAVE Aquatics will now negotiate a more specific operating agreement.
“We are very happy that this resource will still be available to the community,” said Reith. “This will enable us to keep the pool open.”
WAVE has been a staple at Juanita Pool, offering swim teams, lessons and many other aquatics programs.
“WAVE has been at the Juanita Pool for 22 years and there was even a predecessor that was there prior to that,” said WAVE spokesperson Russell Bennett. “It was critical to keep the pool open.”
One of the biggest issues with the pool has to do with repairs to the drain system, which will be covered by the district’s current capital projects levy. The pool needs to replace the drains to remain compliant with federal safety standards. The estimated improvements would cost around $10,000. Other improvements have been estimated to be as much as $1.5 million. Additional repairs still have to be negotiated between WAVE and the district.
“WAVE will do a study and see what the pool needs,” said Reith.
She added that 50 percent of the current operating surplus can go into repairs. The district may consider another capital projects levy for those items for the February election.
No specifics will be announced as far as fees or scheduling until August and a transition date has been set for Sept. 1. The pool will continue to operate as scheduled through July with a regular annual closure for maintenance in August. Current schedule information can be found on the Juanita High School Website at at www.lwsd.org/jhs.
“There was a significant budget shortfall and we still have to create a budget,” said Bennett. “We have to close that gap but there are 46 hours of white space throughout the week so we are hopeful that we can keep the fees at where they are.”
Bennett said the organization does not plan to take up any more time for WAVE programs than they do currently.
“We hope to run some preschool lessons but this is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Bennett. “Pool time is getting scarce with pools closing.”
New management also means that Juanita and Lake Washington high schools will not lose access to training facilities and will hold on to swim and dive teams.
“A lot of those kids are WAVE kids,” said Bennett. “We did not want to see the high schools lose their teams.”
Lake Washington and Juanita high school teams would not have been the only schools to lose teams as many other high school teams would have been affected, including Redmond and Eastlake. Losing the pool could have also been catastrophic to the swimming community, adding more pressure on the dwindling number of community pools in the area.
If no organization was found to take over pool management, the district was faced with closing the pool. The district was faced with cutting $7.7 million after state budget cuts in the last legislative session.