District dives back into program

District dives back into program

The community will have to wait two years longer than it
expected for its new aquatics center, but Christopher High School
Athletics Director Darren Yafai believes the finished product will
be worth the wait.
The community will have to wait two years longer than it expected for its new aquatics center, but Christopher High School Athletics Director Darren Yafai believes the finished product will be worth the wait.

The school district originally planned to open the $9 million community aquatics center at Christopher High with the first phase of the school, but eight months later construction crews have yet to break ground and school administrators don’t expect the project to wrap up until summer 2011. Scheduling conflicts delayed the project multiple times.

“It’s a bummer when the aquatics center ends up taking two years longer than we originally thought. We thought the pool would be ready when the school opened,” Yafai said. “On the other hand, it will be worth the wait.”

The state of the art design includes a water slide, a competition pool, a 6,010-square-foot teaching and play pool, and diving facilities. Gilroy Unified School District trustees enthusiastically voted to add two one-meter-high diving boards and to increase the deep end of the pool to 13 feet, tacking an additional $500,000 onto the original price tag.

No Gilroy public school has such a facility for diving, and trustees said they welcomed the opportunity to expand the district’s aquatics offerings.

“I think the plan offered is supremely adequate,” said Paul Wells, a CHS water polo coach.

Because the city and school district are splitting the cost of the aquatics center at CHS, community members will be able to enjoy the amenities most nights and weekends and during school breaks. CHS students will use the facility for physical education during the school day and for swimming, water polo and diving after school.

The school district will build the aquatics center during the next year with the help of Measure P – the $150 million school facilities bond voters passed in November 2008 – and the city will reimburse the district for its half the project when complete, Superintendent Deborah Flores said.

Until then, CHS swimming and water polo coaches will continue to shuttle athletes to practice at Gavilan College and South Valley Middle School, Yafai said. Physical education teachers also have not been able to incorporate swimming – a freshman requirement – into the curriculum.

Back in October, swimming and water polo coaches anxiously awaiting the completion of the pool facilities at CHS urged trustees to choose a timeline that would speed up the project. However, trustees voted to forgo that option, as it would have cost an additional $250,000.

“It not only hurts Christopher’s athletics and aquatics program but, as one of our classrooms, not having the pool takes away from our curriculum,” Yafai said. “Also, the community is missing out.”

But once finished, Flores envisions a public gathering place that benefits the whole community, similar to the community pool in Morgan Hill.

“It will be a beautiful pool that everyone in the community will be able to use,” she said.

The addition of a diving program at CHS, combined with future plans to re-install diving boards that were removed from the Gilroy High School pool about 10 years ago for liability purposes, will reinvigorate Gilroy’s diving tradition, Yafai said.

Schools without diving teams are immediately at a disadvantage when competing against opponents that have diving programs, GHS Athletic Director Jack Daley said. GHS faces an automatic point deficit when competing against schools with divers in Hollister and Salinas.

“Having a diving program would certainly help us that way,” Daley said. “About half the teams we compete against have diving teams.”

Not having a diving program doesn’t prevent swimmers from qualifying for league championships but because swim meets count performances in individual events toward team totals, GHS doesn’t have a good shot of being league champions, Daley said. Re-installing diving boards at GHS will cost about $25,000, district administrators said.

“GHS had a great tradition in diving,” said Yafai, who taught and coached at GHS before moving to CHS. “Now we will be able to bring that tradition back at both schools.”

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