Students working to stop closure of local high school pool

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Another local swimming pool in the area is in jeopardy of closing, and now Lake Washington School District students are fighting back to save the Juanita Pool.

If the pool closes, the swim teams that practice there morning and night say they'd have no place to go. But the school district wants to modernize the school and is focusing its spending on education expenses.

Hundreds of kids and adults use Juanita High School's pool every month, but school district officials say the school and the pool have passed their shelf life.

"It's like a car with 200,000 miles on it, " said the district's Kathryn Reith.

A bond up for vote would modernize the school, but wouldn't include funding for a pool. Swimmers are concerned the bond's passage would spell the end of eastside swim teams.

"If the pool closed we wouldn't have a place to train and basically all swimming in Lake Washington High School and Northshore District would be stopped," said Austin Lashley, the swim team captain at Lake Washington High School.

Four high school swim teams use the pool, which is the only competitive pool of its size and depth from the State Route 520 to Mill Creek.

"I've been a swimmer my whole life, and it is disappointing to know we might be the last captains of Lake Washington," said Lake Washington High School swim team captain Malika Elkayssi.

The swimmers have launched a Facebook campaign and petition to save the pool.

District officials say the pool has been a pricey problem for years, and the district actually contracts out operations to Wave Aquatics, which can cost $500,000 a year to manage.

Members of the community use the pool even more than students.

"We provide programming for adult lessons, children lessons, swim team, synchronized swimming, kayaking," said assistant aquatics director Becca Watson.

The district is looking for a community solution by actively looking for partnership with the city of Kirkland or any other entity that can help.

Replacing the aging pool could cost $15 million, or double that amount if the district made it a money maker that could be rented out for events.

"So that's a big chunk of money at a time when the district is looking for funds to build new schools," Reith said. "We have over 4,000 more students we expect in the next 8 years, and that's really got to be the priority of the schools."