By Jenny Neyman
On paper, closing the Skyview pool makes financial sense.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing a projected shortfall of at least $3.4 million next year, or as much as about $4.6 million factoring in costs of salary increases and depending on how state and borough funding shakes out. The annual cost of maintaining the pool is about $170,000, with another $80,000 scheduled to be spent this summer on a filter overhaul.
Kenai only has one pool. Soldotna has two. With the upcoming reconfiguration of Soldotna-area schools, Skyview will become the area’s middle school. Currently, students take swimming in high school.
With the majority of the district’s budget allocated to pay personnel, it’s tough to find places to cut that don’t involve teachers and other staff. The pool is used by the community as well as the school, but the district’s first priority is to its students.
“The pool is a positive place, and it’s an unfortunate situation we’re placed in, but we’re charged with doing what we can for children, not citizens who want to swim laps, so we’re doing what we can with the kids in mind. We’re not required to teach swimming — we’d love to, but we’re not mandated to. And the bottom line is there are two pools within a two-mile area and we can meet our mission’s goals with the kids at the (Soldotna High School) pool,” said Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent.
But to those who want to keep the pool open, doing so makes sense apart from budgets, as they see value beyond just dollars and cents.
“Kids need to learn how to swim and SoHi pool can’t accommodate all the swim lesson needs that we have here. I know people who currently drive to Homer to use the pool because the ones here are closed on weekends. Also, Skyview is used by many for rehab purposes, and so many people benefit from low-impact exercise. And swimming is such an important aerobic activity for your heart,” said Patty Moran, of Soldotna. “We need to be promoting healthy communities here on the peninsula. Taking away one of our huge resources for that is really unthinkable. Many people’s lives will be negatively impacted by the loss of that pool. It makes no sense at all,” she said.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is holding public budget meetings at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Seward High School library, 5:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Soldotna High School library and 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Homer High School library. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend one of the meetings. For more information, contact Lassie Nelson at 714-8838.