Should swimming pools and athletic fields be considered requisites for an adequate school facility?
In Wyoming, several district superintendents say that the state should pay for the construction and upkeep of schools' recreational facilities.
But the state's school facilities commission recently ruled that swimming pools are "enhancements" and that local districts must bear the related costs. About 25 of the state's 48 districts have pools.
At the core of the debate is a 2001 state supreme court ruling. It requires the state to pay all school construction costs and to provide adequate facilities. The state contends that swimming pools, irrigated fields, and other recreational facilities are enhancements that are not essential to students' education.
It costs up to $400,000 a year to maintain an existing pool, and it would cost $80 million to $125 million to build pools—indoor and heated, of course—for the districts that don't have them, said Jim "Bubba" Shivler, the director of the commission "We think the money could be better spent on the educational side," he said.
But Tracy J. Copenhaver, a lawyer who represents several school districts protesting the commission's ruling, said many districts don't believe the state is giving districts even the bare minimum in aid, and protested that the state is excluding facility funding for extracurricular activities.
The pools, he said, are used for many purposes, including physical education and water- safety classes, and have been part of the educational programs for many years.
Mr. Shivler noted that the legislature could overrule the commission's decision.
California Gov. Gray Davis has signed into law a plan designed to clean up the bathrooms in public schools.
The law stipulates that each district can and should use money from a state school-maintenance fund for restroom upkeep and repairs. That fund is typically used for larger school construction projects.
Assemblyman Fabian Nunez, the bill's chief sponsor, said that some students will not use unsanitary school restrooms, which puts them at risk for health problems.
"It is a disgrace that our students don't have access to clean and functional facilities," the Democrat said. "They should be concentrating on what goes on in the classroom, not whether they may get an infection from using the bathroom."
Vol. 23, Issue 4, Page 7Published in Print: September 24, 2003, as Facilities