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Dr. Higgins: Why an indoor swimming pool for Maize? Now is the right time for this new plan

Dr. Chad Higgins, Maize USD 266 Superintendent of Schools BY DR. CHAD HIGGINS 
As part of our proposed bond issue, our OneMa1ze community will be asked at the polls next month to consider a plan for a venue that would house an auditorium and an indoor swimming pool. This vision would bring new opportunities for all students. It is part of many improvements the community would be able to provide without an increase to the local tax levy.
Let me be the first to assure you that this plan is much different than one you may have considered before. Four years ago, the OneMa1ze community voted against a proposed natatorium that could be set up either with nine 50-meter lanes or 18 25-yard lanes. The plan was in part to be a destination location for large-scale school and club swim competitions. The facility plan included elevated spectator seating for 750 people, lobby and concession space, and locker rooms.
At that time, school funding was uncertain, and not as many area schools had indoor swimming pools. Community feedback following the election was that the project vision was too big and grand.
While the natatorium proposition failed in June 2015, it still garnered 38 percent of voters’ support, with 3,087 voters supporting the plan.
In the years since, the district continues to hear feedback that interest remains in a pool for team sports, life-saving swimming instruction, special education, and wellness curriculum. Wichita USD 259 and Haysville USD 261 are among area school districts that have added indoor swimming pools to their districts, making a pool in Maize USD 266 seem more desirable, feasible, and needed for students and the community. Andover USD 385, through a recently passed bond issue, is currently constructing a pool for their students' use. In short, many parents and community members want the same amenities and opportunities for children in Maize USD 266.
Maize USD 266’s new vision includes an indoor pool on a smaller scale, with eight 25-yard lanes, a 55 percent decrease in size than the previous natatorium facility plan. It would include 300 seats, less than half that proposed in June 2015. The pool is planned to be similar in size to those in neighboring high schools.
The plan is supported by members of our Facilities Needs Committee of parents, students, employees, board members, and architects, who spent months studying possible options. The plan also includes zero-entry, which would be beneficial for our youngest students and those with special needs, for uses including physical therapy and meeting sensory needs. The plan also includes a dive well. Our high school swimmers have an automatic disadvantage at competitions because they are up against schools competing in diving events and earning points that our students are unable to even try to gain.
There is a safety piece involved, as well. As I mentioned in my message last month, without a district swimming pool, the Maize High School and Maize South High School swim teams practice at the Greater Wichita YMCA's northwest location. While the YMCA is a great community partner, students share practice spaces, as well as restrooms and locker rooms, with the YMCA’s membership. This does not provide the same level of safety and security that can be provided at a Maize USD 266 property and is desired for all students.
The district’s proposal also includes a new element of economic responsibility by including an indoor pool in a shared facility with an auditorium. This means that the dollars spent on parking, outdoor lighting, lobby space, restrooms, utilities, etc. can be used for multiple purposes, a cost savings to the community.
The auditorium would provide a venue for our growing school district and access for every student in the district for fine arts performances, events, and opportunities currently difficult to schedule. In fact, one elementary school this past school year had its school choir concert on a Saturday because there was no other availability for the high school auditoriums. The new auditorium plan includes more than 900 seats, sound and light, and will have similar features as our two high school auditoriums. Adding a third auditorium will allow the district to expand fine arts opportunities for all students while extending the life span of all three spaces.
I encourage you to visit for additional information about the bond issue.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Maize USD 266.
Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Schools
Proposed schematic of the auditorium/indoor pool facility
Proposed schematic of the auditorium/indoor pool facility