Finding a path forward for district’s pool

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File photo. The district’s swimming pool has not been used for its original purpose since a 2020 flood caused substantial damage.

By EJ Conzola II

WHITEHALL — A special meeting intended to give residents of the Whitehall Central School District a say in how the current location of the district’s swimming pool should be utilized has been scheduled for 6 p.m. May 29.

The meeting will be held in either the high school cafeteria or the auditorium, depending on the format of the session, Superintendent Patrick Dee said.

The district is trying to decide between having small groups of residents sit at tables with district representatives to “share their voice regarding what direction to head with that space” or having the representatives just “sit and listen” to residents’ input, he said.

The meeting will also involve representatives of the architectural and engineering firm that had been hired to prepare the original plan for the space, which was rejected by district voters 156-103 in a Feb. 6 referendum. That plan had called for replacing the pool with instructional space, which administrators say is badly needed to meet state requirements, particularly in the area of special education.

Several Board of Education members had pushed for the public forum, saying the lack of input from district residents played a significant role in the referendum’s defeat.

The proposal had been unanimously approved by the school board before it was unveiled to the public. The district did hold several information sessions about the proposal prior to the vote and while public comments were permitted, several in the audiences complained the plan was presented as a fait accompli.

District officials had argued the plan was the most practical and cost-effective way to meet the state requirements, noting the pool had not been used since it was damaged in an August 2020 flood. But opponents of the idea said eliminating the pool would ensure no such facility would exist in a community in which the ability to swim was important because of the many recreational waterways found there.