Possible Lindbergh pool closure could leave Kentridge swimmers high and dry

Though the Kent School District is facing budget cuts of their own, one of the district's sports programs may be adversely affected by budget cuts in a neighboring district.

Editor’s note: Information about a public meeting on this topic follows this story.

Though the Kent School District is facing budget cuts of their own, one of the district’s sports programs may be adversely affected by budget cuts in a neighboring district.

A $6 million budget gap in the Renton School District could mean members of the Kentridge High School boys and girls swim teams will have to find a new place to practice next year if plans to close the Lindbergh Pool take effect in the fall.

Lindbergh is the home pool of the Kentridge teams for both practices and meets and a closure means finding another place to practice among pools that themselves are already crowded.

According to Kent Athletic Director Dave Lutes, both Kentwood and Kent-Meridian practice at the Kent-Meridian pool while Kentlake practices in Tahoma. Lutes said schedules for both pools were “pretty packed in” as it is.

“There are no other pools around,” he said.

According to Renton Spokesperson Randy Matheson, next year is the first year the district would have to fully fund the Lindbergh pool, which was built and controlled by King County until the area surrounding it was annexed into Renton.

Because the pool sits on school-district land, the pool was transferred to the district.

According to Matheson, the annual operating cost on the pool is about $476,000. The district collects user fees of about $300,000, but that still leaves a gap of nearly $176,000.

“It is heavily used not only by our own students, but by Kent students and community members,” he said.

In a year when districts all around the state are expecting to have to make cuts, Matheson said the pool is not necessarily a priority, especially because the district is already operating one pool at Hazen High School.

“We’re looking at cutting more than $6 million from our budget based on the governor’s budget,” Matheson said. “A community element like a pool is important, but it is not our main objective as a school district.”

Matheson said the district understands the need for a second community pool, which he said is booked solid from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. every day, but reiterated that the district’s primary responsibility is to provide a quality education for students.

Matheson added the district is putting together a request for proposals to see if there are any companies with the experience and interest to manage the pool. The district also is looking to see if the cost of managing the pool can be made up through reductions or increased user fees.

So far, however, funding for the Lindbergh pool is still on the chopping block, leaving Kent to sit and wait.

“We’re kind of at the whim at what the Renton School District decides to do,” Lutes said.

The AD added that Kent is encouraging residents of the area to attend Renton’s budget workshops to show support for keeping open the Lindbergh pool, and said a new home pool will be found for Kentridge should Lindbergh be closed.

“I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does we’ll just have to problem solve,” Lutes said.

The Renton School District is hosting a community budget session at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Lindbergh High School, 16426 – 128th Ave S.E., Renton. For more information visit www.rentonschools.us.

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