Waunakee school officials have decided that the district’s aquatic center will remain closed to the public until summer, reserving the facility for staff and students only at this time.

Superintendent Randy Guttenberg told school-board members at their April 12 meeting that residents had expressed interest in utilizing the pool at Waunakee Community High School, which was open to the public prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closure.

Since receiving those requests, district officials have been in discussion with the aquatics director to determine whether expanded use of the facility would be feasible from a staffing perspective.

The matter was referred to the facilities committee, which met most recently on March 31.

Aquatics Director Kristy Nacker informed committee members that lifeguards were undergoing training, in preparation for additional programs that would be taking place at the aquatic center in the coming months, and presented options for school officials to consider as the facility reopened.

Committee members agreed that the district should test the water with smaller group sizes first, such as those in beginner swim lessons, before fully reopening the aquatic facility to the public.

“I think our discussion was to get through our school programs (this spring),” treasurer Jack Heinemann told board members during the committee report. “And then we are going to revisit this in May, so that all of our school stuff is taken care of, all of our students are taken care of.”

The facilities committee ultimately recommended that pool usage be limited to staff and students, including those enrolled in modified beginner swim lessons taking place this spring.

School-board members approved the committee’s recommendation on a 7-0 vote.

Following the discussion, director Joan Ensign advocated for expanding the number of programs being offered at the aquatic center such as the lap swim that had been requested by residents.

“I would just like to say on behalf of the public, and a number of swimmers who have contacted me, that we continue to look at bringing in the community for that lap swim as soon as we can,” Ensign said. “I understand going slow; I understand getting the lifeguards trained. But when it fits, I would really like to see the public allowed in.”

Board members discussed the usage of other athletic facilities at Monday’s meeting as well.

Guttenberg presented a committee recommendation that district-related youth camps be allowed to use WCSD facilities over the summer, as well as certain village programs and driver’s ed courses.

Guttenberg said activities taking place through the village would only be allowed on outdoor facilities.

“That was one of the pieces where we wanted to draw a distinction,” Guttenberg said. “We’re not looking at opening up all of our gyms for their programs. But you look at, like, tee-ball. That takes place outside. So that’s kind of what we want to be able to support.”

Clerk Judy Engebretson made a motion to approve the committee’s recommendation, with Heinemann amending it to allow third-party use of outdoor facilities beginning May 1.

The amendment failed, with some expressing concern that the opening date was too soon.

Engebretson’s original motion passed by a 5-2 vote, with board members Mike Brandt and Heinemann casting the dissenting votes. Brandt noted that the district had policies in place to accommodate outside groups using its facilities, and that outdoor fields required less resources to allow for that usage.

“We made a distinction between pools and all the other facilities for a reason,” Brandt said. “One is indoors with things that need to have staff monitoring them at all times. Everything else like a soccer field, or a baseball field or a football field, things that are outdoors do not require any additional staff input other than maybe opening a gate. And I guess, at this point, I don’t really know our justification for saying no to publicly-owned things that we have policy in the packet for allowing people to use.”

Guttenberg said the board will likely reconsider facility usage by non-school groups at the board’s May meeting.

Other business

Also at Monday’s meeting, school board members:

- presented a plaque to outgoing board member Mike Brandt, whose term ends next month

- approved school board priorities for the 2021-22 school year

- tabled a motion to establish a visionary ad-hoc committee consisting of parents, business leaders and other school community members who would provide direction to the district in regard to its allocation of resources among other things

- voted down a motion by Brandt to interpret the use of sacred images within the district as a form of religious and ethnic discrimination, and therefore preclude it immediately.

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