This letter is in response to 28th Ward Alderman Ed Smith’s demand for an Olympic-sized swimming pool at the new Westinghouse High School.

The community wants the new school constructed as soon as possible without any additional delay. Although small, but vocal, we are part of a group of community residents who have been lobbying passionately for the new high school since the Chicago Board of Education announced the new school along with Little Village and North Grand high schools in 2000.

The purpose of the community meeting we organized on Jan. 17 was for Alderman Smith, community residents and contractors to receive an update from Montel Gayles, executive director of the Public Buildings Commission, and his staff, about the modifications to the original school design and maximizing the participation of West Side minority contractors and workers during the school construction.

Because the original bids were rejected for being too high ($81 and $82 million), the PBC rejected the bids and chose to scale down the project because the bids were over budget. The community wanted to know what the specific modifications were.

We also want the City of Chicago to include the use of the West Side for venues in its Olympic bid; however, it was disingenuous for Ald. Smith to use the meeting to blindside the Chicago Public Schools, the PBC, and the West Side community with his ultimatum for an Olympic-sized swimming pool or he will not support the city’s Olympic bid. The pool proposed is an Illinois High School Association competition-grade pool which will be available for community use during non-school hours (a community request).

By demanding that an Olympic-sized pool be included in the plans for a new Westinghouse High School, Ald. Smith is really asking for the PBC to re-bid the school, which will delay the school construction another year; a loss of class space to the increased pool size; and redirecting limited school construction dollars from other West Side school projects because of the additional costs to build such a pool.

Ald. Smith also overlooked the fact that the mayor proposed constructing another new high school on the West Side which will give him the opportunity to lobby (not demand) the community for the flexibility of including an Olympic-sized pool in the proposed new school. It would be a great opportunity to leverage both private and public dollars for an Olympic pool venue at the proposed new school.

The West Side of Chicago is starving for quality programs slated at the new school for our children’s benefit.

The Westinghouse model of a selective enrollment school and a career prep school in the same building is the first in CPS history. The community proposed this unique model to the CPS and the mayor obviously supports this unique model because of his personal involvement.

It is our hope that Ald. Smith publicly retracts his ultimatum and focuses his energy on getting the new school built.

Cata and Dwayne Truss