Panther Valley School District will likely give anyone willing to throw a life ring to save the high school swimming pool until March 7 to make a viable offer.
After that, the school board will probably move forward with plans to drain and fill the pool, and use the space for more physical education or classrooms.
The board's Building and Grounds Committee on Thursday agreed to recommend the full board, which meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, consider offering the two-week window of opportunity.
Anyone who is interested in taking over operations of the pool is asked to call Superintendent Rosemary Porembo at (570) 645-4248. The district office will provide all of the information needed.
Committee Chairman David Hiles, Anthony DeMarco, and Bill Hunsicker all attended the meeting, as did school board President Jeff Markovich, school board member Roy Angst, and Porembo.
A representative of The Architectural Studio is expected to visit the district in the near future to offer guidance as to how the district would go about draining, filling and renovating the pool area for another use. The committee discussed the possibility of using the area to house a weight room, batting cage, and other gym items, or using it for much-needed classroom space.
The committee made its recommendation following a lengthy discussion.
"We want to give everyone a shot at keeping the pool open," Hiles said.
The school board in May 2011 voted to close the pool in the face of steep state funding cuts. Water Wellness signed a one-year lease to operate it, and opened the pool for therapeutic and recreational use beginning in January of 2012. But Water Wellness floundered, and was unable to make its monthly payments, so the pool closed again at the end of December. The school board in January agreed to take legal action against Water Wellness to recoup the $37,000 it owes the district.
A group of people who had been using the pool under the auspices of Water Wellness had tried its best to raise enough money to be able to keep the pool open.
A member of that group, Mary Lou Harvan, last month presented the committee with checks from various people to use to buy chemicals needed to keep the water clean so the pool would be maintained, even if not open for use. The committee did not accept the checks.
Harvan wept on Thursday as she thanked the school board for giving the group a chance, and spoke of how the pool closing would impact those elderly and disabled who used it for physical therapy.
"We loved that pool," she said.
Harvan said the group did its best to raise money, "but we failed."
Last month, a local company, Caffrey-Trimmel LLC, which is the parent company of Pyramid, Educare of PA, and Behavioral Health Associates, talked with school officials about leasing the pool. However, the company decided to not pursue the idea.
DeMarco said the school district also tried to find ways to support the pool, approaching St. Luke's Hospital Network. But the hospital wasn't interested.