To the editor:
For some time now Mr. John Wilkens has been bad-mouthing Wayland Schools administration. I don’t know why he is so angry, but he is wrong!
In his last diatribe, he proclaimed that “a pool is not needed.” OK, taking that logic forward, why do we need a football field? After all the boys play on grass and there is a big front lawn. We don’t need no stinkin gym. Basketball games can be played on the courts in the City Park. Of course, they might to share with the tennis teams.
Between middle and high school, boys and girls, we’ve got 10 basketball teams. But then there are lots of outdoor hoops at the middle school and Pine Street. The wrestling team can take over a classroom, shove desks aside, put a mat down, and have at it. Throw down some rugs and they can practice in the hallways.
When I was a kid, we threw down some board in the field and played work-up all day. I’m sure our baseball and softball teams can find a vacant cow pasture.
Unfortunately for our swim teams, Gun Lake can be damn cold in December and January.
OK, let’s stop being ridiculous. If you believe, as I do, that athletics is part of a well-rounded education, then we need to provide for that activity with equivalent personnel, equipment and infrastructure that we do for the academic, the arts and the club programs for our students.
We have a swim program. Age-group swim for our younger kids to learn their strokes and compete against surrounding communities. Middle school boys’ and girls’ teams compete against other area schools. And of course, the high school boys and girls swim and dive teams that compete for O-K Gold Conference honors, with the ultimate goal for reaching regional and state competition.
But Wayland does NOT have a LEGAL pool. Forget that it’s falling apart; it is not legal when it’s OK. It is too shallow for swimmers to start their events by diving off the boards from the pool deck.
Wayland cannot host state competition because eight lanes are required, and we only have six. That is why you’ve heard that to correctly fix the old pool, you have to tear it out, excavate deeper and wider, put in all new plumbing, and then build a pool. But you can’t go wider because that outside wall is already up to the football stadium.
Our kids who swim freestyle, breast stroke and butterfly events must start in the water. They grab the edge of the pool and kick off upon the starting gun. They’re pushing through water right at the beginning rather that flying through the air as they do at other schools. This obviously hurts their times, and individual times are what gets an athlete to state competition. Obviously, other schools do not like to come to Wayland.
There is another negative aspect to the Wayland pool. Typically, it is hot and humid on the pool deck. That is fine for the contestants, but parents and other fans, who are fully dressed, can be miserable in that environment, especially in warm weather.
I’ve had two granddaughters come up through the Wayland swim programs and I’ve attended many events throughout west and mid-Michigan. Wayland, the old Grandville High School and Muskegon High School are some of the places that are absolute hell in hot weather.
Instead, go watch at swim meet at Byron Center’s fairly new natatorium with comfortable seating, a great view, low humidity, and 72-degree air to experience what modern air-makeup systems can do.
My youngest granddaughter swam at Wayland, age group through her senior year. She had to put up with that terrible starting position for eight years. She also was on the track team through high school, but there she got to perform on our new track and field facilities, funded by a past bond issue.
Orchestra was another passion and she had to practice in those crowded and noisy conditions for many years. But then she got to perform in our beautiful new Fine Arts Center, also funded by a past bond issue.
I’ll also mention that her grades were great; that she just finished college, and is going back into education. This fall she will be going back into the classroom as a teacher.
I think I can safely state that she benefited from a well-rounded education from Wayland Union schools.
If Mr. Wilkens had his selfish way, this beautiful young lady would have missed a significant part of her school experience.
Please vote yes on the bond issue May 2.
— Tom Andrews