Good news for swimmers: Panther Valley School District's indoor swimming pool, threatened by budget cuts, will stay open.

The school board on Thursday agreed to lease the pool to Maria Zupko and Nicole Bailey of New Ringgold, doing business as Water Wellness Inc., for $69,500 a year.

The contract runs for one year, and will be automatically renewed for a second year, said business manager Kenneth Marx Jr.

The $69,500, he said, is not compensation, but reimbursement for operating expenses, he said.

Under the lease agreement, "students and the public will be allowed to use the pool, through Zupko, but will be charged for it, just like any other business," said board President Jeff Markovich.

The school board in June had opted to close the pool as it was crafting its 2011-12 budget, due to a $1.3 million cutback in state funding.

"We thought this was a good alternative. If we had closed the pool, we'd have to drain it. The plugs would have to be pulled out and ground water could leak in " he said. "This is the best option we found to keep it open."

Panther Valley employees will still be involved in checking the water and doing janitorial services, Markovich said. "Water Wellness will reimburse us for that."

He said board members' security concerns also have been resolved.

"Everything will be locked between the school and pool. the entrance will be from the outside," he said.

Superintendent Rosemary Porembo called the lease a "win-win situation."

Zupko and Bailey, she said, will use the pool for a variety of endeavors, including therapy, swim lessons, Red Cross life guard training, deep water aerobics, arthritis therapy, aquatic Tai Chi, and aqua Pilates.

"It's a good way to keep the pool intact, otherwise we would have had to mothball it," Porembo said.

Another benefit is that leasing the pool gives the district time to wait and see if it can eventually afford to operate it on its own again.

Efforts to reach Zupko early Friday were unsuccessful.