After making waves on social media, a plan for Hays CISD and the YMCA of Austin to pool their resources and build a natatorium appears to have been drained at a school board meeting Monday evening.
According to the proposal, the district would contribute $5 million from the fund balance, or the district's savings for one-time purchases, to construct a natatorium to house a 10-lane swimming pool the district would have access to for 30 years, with the expectation that the lease would be renewed. The facility would have the capacity to host three-day swim tournaments with 20 teams competing.
However, the agenda item failed, as several trustees were uncomfortable with the timing and spending so much money on an athletic facility.
A tie from the seven-member board was possible because President Meredith Keller abstained from the vote. District 1 trustee Teresa Tobias, trustee at large Vanessa Petrea and District 5 trustee Esperanza Orosco voted against the contributing money toward the natatorium.
Petrea said she supported the partnership, but she was hesitant to vote on a large budget decision until after the state Legislature completes its special session; the district could lose funding from changes that could come about as a result of legislation changes, including the issue of school vouchers.
Orosco, however, thought the $5 million the YMCA asked from the district may be better spent elsewhere, such as “on the front lines,” or things that affect students’ everyday lives. The district could use the money to begin an International Baccalaureate program and compete with charter schools instead, she said.
District 2 trustee Willie Tenorio Jr., trustee at large Holly Raymond and District 3 trustee Bert Bronaugh Jr. voted in favor of it.
“Within the next 30 years, we’re going to have at least five high schools, minimum,” Tenorio said. “[With that growth,] we definitely could support this facility. I would not normally vote for a facility like this, but the YMCA partnership makes it better. They have a track record with helping the community.”
Raymond and Bronaugh pointed out it was the district’s job to not only educate students academically, but also ensure they have leadership and social skills as well as a healthy lifestyle.
“Kids are more than test scores,” Raymond said.
The board has discussed the natatorium for over a year before Monday’s vote, and the issue could return on future school board agendas. Orosco said she hopes to get more community feedback.
“It is not our money; it is the taxpayers’ money, and we need to respect that,” Orosco said.