School trustee heads push for eastside community pool

South Valley MS campus, San Ysidro Park possible locations

The Morgan Hill Aquatic Center

A Gilroy school board trustee is leading the charge for the construction of a new community pool on the east side of the city, which has had no public aquatic facilities since the closing of the old pool at South Valley Middle School nearly a decade ago.

While the plan to get that done is still in its infancy, veteran Gilroy Unified School District Trustee Linda Piceno—also a retired GUSD administrator—introduced the concept to her colleagues on the school board and district leadership May 9.

“I feel strongly that we need a public community pool on the east side of Gilroy,” said Piceno, who wanted to make clear that she is speaking as a private citizen for this initiative.

Piceno is in the process of forming a committee to help with fundraising for the community pool since “neither the city nor the district has enough money to build a pool.”

GUSD Board Member Linda Piceno

The school district trustees have allocated bond money to renovate the aging South Valley campus located at 385 IOOF Ave., and Piceno wants to make sure they take into consideration the concept of building a pool on school grounds to serve the community.

“That is the only piece of land that is large enough and available besides San Ysidro Park to fit a community pool” on the east side, said Piceno. San Ysidro is 9.75 acres, and there are two smaller eastside parks of about  a quarter-acre each.

“It’s the only big piece of property on the east side, so it seems logical if a community pool was to be put in, it would be on that parcel somewhere,” said Piceno of South Valley. “That would be my first choice, and San Ysidro would be the other.”

Piceno estimated a new community pool would cost about $8 million. The $5.8 million Gilroy High School pool reconstruction project that’s underway will not be completed until the end of the summer.

“When I spoke and asked to put the idea of a community pool on the agenda, it was not as an action item, just as information only,” Piceno said. “Right now, it’s just a concept. I just don’t want to have any regrets about not saying anything, because people on the east side need a community pool.”

Currently, the only pool open to the public is at Christopher High School on the far northwest side of town. The CHS Aquatics Center opens to the public on weekends June 1-16 from 11:30am to 5pm and then Tuesday through Sunday June 18-Aug. 4 during the same operating hours. The cost is $8 weekdays and $10 weekends.

“We are redoing South Valley Middle School, and within the next 2½ years, we will have plans for that. I don’t want to wait until that happens before bringing this idea forward,” Piceno said. “It will not be a South Valley pool. It will not be part of that school. It will be a community pool.”

In a 7-0 vote at the Jan. 18, 2018 meeting, Gilroy’s board of trustees voted in favor of the district’s reallocation of Measure E’s Series B funds, with $90.5 million for South Valley (built in 1958 as Gilroy High School) and $71.8 million for Brownell.

Piceno plans to form a foundation and begin fundraising as soon as possible to make the community pool idea a reality within the next three to seven years.

“I want to fundraise enough money to build the pool, maintain it and possibly staff it,” said Piceno, estimating it will take about $15 million to accomplish that goal. “This is not a quick fix. It will not get done overnight. But if we don’t start talking about it now, it will never happen.”

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