MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — School swimming pools are expensive to maintain. It's why the pool at Muskegon Heights High School was drained in 2012. Since then the pool has been dry.
On Monday, Feb. 2, a number of school leaders gathered to test the pool's plumbing. With the turn of a large lever, water began slowly filling the pool's reservoir. An hour later water also started to trickle into the pool's deep end.
"Our first hope is we fill it to capacity and that the pipes hold and there's no leakage," said Rane Garcia, Superintendent of Muskegon Heights Public School Academy (MHPSAS).
Garcia wasn't with the Muskegon Heights in 2012 when the district's debt rose to $12 million. A state appointed emergency manager was assigned to the district to made big cuts and reduce the deficit.
The school's swimming pool was closed in an effort to save money.
Today the district is no longer under supervision of an emergency manager.
And Garcia says she can no longer let the pool go unused. "It's sad and wrong, and we're going to try and make it right," she said.
The first step in reopening the pool is to check all of the pool's plumbing. That will take several days, possibly a week or longer. Just filling the pool takes between 24 and 36 hours.
Followed by tests of the pool's circulation pump, filtering system, chemical system and heater.
Garcia hopes everything checks out and is found to be in working order.
"Then our next step is to figure out how to have an operations plan that doesn't take from our general fund," she said.
If the pool does reopen it will likely happen only after developing new community partnerships to cover the cost of operating and maintain the pool.
Garcia would like to see the pool used not only Muskegon Heights students, but students from other Muskegon County schools and community members too.
"There are too many kids in Muskegon County who don't know how to swim, and we are surrounded by water," she said.
If the pool is determined to be in good working shape, around $30,000 will be needed to get it open. The cost will go much higher if plumbing repairs are needed. The annual cost of operating the pool could be around $100,000.
Garcia is working to connect with community members who have an interest in helping the district develop an operational plan.
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