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Legal questions remain about Paso school pool proposal 

Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) is closer than ever to building a long-awaited pool after district leadership proposed a compromise solution. But the legality of it all is still murky.

"We need to build this pool, but we can't break the law to do it," PRJUSD board member Chris Bausch said.

click to enlarge NO COMPETITION The Swim Paso Association says that "shape, size, depth, and access are the biggest issues that hinder regulation competition" at the municipal pool that Paso school district student athletes currently use. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SWIM PASO ASSOCIATION
  • Photo Courtesy Of Swim Paso Association
  • NO COMPETITION The Swim Paso Association says that "shape, size, depth, and access are the biggest issues that hinder regulation competition" at the municipal pool that Paso school district student athletes currently use.

The initial plan was to build a 50-meter competitive pool, desperately needed by student athletes who currently practice at the municipal pool, which doesn't meet competition regulations. The idea was to fund the project through Measure M, which passed in 2016.

Based on space, "the swimming pool design would have to go at the high school," Bausch said. "The problem with that is that we were passing an elementary and middle school bond—we weren't allowed to spend any money at the high school."

To get around this issue, the district received legal advice to design a community pool that would serve the city of Paso Robles and the district's students. After determining that a 50-meter pool wasn't large enough to serve all the needs of the community, the district added a second, 25-yard pool to the plan.

"There was a timeline of projects to be accomplished," Bausch said of the measure. "Marie Bauer, Glen Speck, Georgia Brown, lots of other facilities, and then the pool."

But previous Superintendent Chris Williams convinced the district to purchase two pools in 2017—a decision that has weighed on the district since, and was criticized by the SLO County grand jury in its report, "A Cautionary Tale."

"The cost of purchase, installation, and maintenance of those two pools could not be justified given other facilities and general fund needs of the district," current Superintendent Curt Dubost said in a March 11 newsletter. "Unfortunately, the prior administration had proceeded with the premature purchase of both pools as originally envisioned, and both still today sit in crates at the high school."

But the district is still pool-less, so administrators proposed a new plan at the board's March 8 meeting: "declare surplus and sell the smaller pool (a potential buyer has been identified), and downsize the 50-meter pool to the basic 38-meter length common for high school dual meets," Dubost wrote.

The Swim Paso Association, an organization devoted to making water safety, sport, and fitness accessible to all, supports this option.

"Considering that the aquatics community has needed a regulation, competitive pool for decades, and our swimmers and water polo players are swimming in an old, non-regulation pool, we feel this is the best opportunity to get the children in this community a safe, competitive pool," association Chair Gwen Severson told New Times.

But Trustee Bausch's question still remains: Is it legal under the Measure M bond?

"Can we build just one pool at the high school, or do we need to build two?" Bausch asked in a March 15 interview. "If we remove the community aspect, can we even build it at the high school, or does it need to be built at another site? We hope to have that information back from the attorney next week."

The board gave unanimous direction at its March 8 meeting to move forward with the sale of the small pool and design of the compromise 38-meter pool, with a final vote to happen in April—after the district's legal counsel gives their opinion and the proposal is reviewed by the Citizens Oversight Committee. Δ

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