Editor's note: This story has been corrected to explain the two options Middlebury Community Schools is considering on the Northridge Middle School pool.
MIDDLEBURY — Northridge Middle School's pool is almost 25 years old and in need of enough repairs that all pool equipment needs to be replaced or the facility closed and filled in.
That was the news Middlebury Community Schools Superintendent Jane Allen shared with a small crowd during a meeting about the pool Tuesday evening.
“Right now, we're discovering things are falling apart, because it is 25 years old,” Allen said.
Several pieces of equipment have already been repaired or replaced but are again giving out. In the last 2 1/2 years, Middlebury Community Schools has had to pay $47,369 for unplanned but needed repairs to the pool just to keep it usable. Since those expenses were unbudgeted, the school board needed to borrow money from other Middlebury school corporation funds to pay for the pool's upkeep.
SCO Engineering completed a study in June 2012 of the middle school pool.
The study found that it would cost $652,800 to replace all pool equipment such as water pumps, pipes and the humidification system, or $685,500 to fill in the pool and renovate the space, preparing it to be used in some other way.
“Bottom line, do we keep it open or do we close it?” Allen asked.
Either way, the school corporation does not have the budget to handle either option on its own. Allen explained that the school corporation would need to do a general obligation bond, allowable for the school up to $2 million.
Allen also explained how heating and cooling the pool, buying chemicals and supplies, maintenance and custodial work and the cost of pool personnel would total an annual operating expense of $151,762 after the renovation. That would be an ongoing expense on top of the pool replacement cost for the next dozen years or so, which is the lifespan of most pool equipment, she said. The number could decrease by about $15,000 annually if the school purchased a pool cover. For the size of Northridge Middle School's pool, a cover would cost $89,000, Allen said.
The annual operating expense would be closer to $10,000 if the pool were closed, Allen told those at the middle school Tuesday evening.
The middle school pool is used by hundreds of middle school students each year during physical education, wellness and functional skills classes, as well as by the school's swim team. All fourth-graders at Heritage Intermediate School also take swim classes at that pool. Heritage's functional skills classes and Northridge High School's diving team also use it. The middle school pool is used by community groups and individuals, too, including the Northridge Area Swimming Association, Starz Diving Team, a year-round swim lesson program, lap swimming and an aqua arthritis class that Northridge took on when Goshen College closed its pool last August.
If Middlebury closes the pool, Allen said there's a possibility that the fourth-grade swim classes and Heritage's functional skills' students' pool time could be held at the high school pool. The middle school swim team, the swimming association and the water aerobics class could also likely move to the high school, but would have to work around the high school's schedule. The currently year-round swim lessons would also likely be limited to the summer.
The pool committee also provided data from tracking each time an individual — student or community member — entered the pool.
In 2010, the pool was used 22,705 times and, in 2011, was used 19,773. Up through Dec. 16, 2012, the pool was used 16,576, though the pool was drained and closed for six weeks last fall because of emergency water pump repairs.
Now, Middlebury Community Schools is seeking input.
Allen said that school officials want questions and comments from the public, but want them in writing. The school corporation will set up a place on its website, www.mcsin-k12.org, where school officials can post all the questions and comments they receive along with their answers, so that others with the same questions and comments can see the responses.
“If we don't have community input, we're not doing our jobs,” Allen said.
Questions and comments can go to firstname.lastname@example.org or MCS School Board — NMS Pool, 56853 Northridge Drive, Middlebury, IN 46540.
Allen will present an identical presentation at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in Northridge Middle School's auditorium. The entire presentation will also be available on the Middlebury Community Schools' website following that meeting, she said.
After all the questions and comments are assembled following both public meetings, the Middlebury School Board will look through it all and have a vote. Allen said that she did not know what the exact date for that would be.