Corona del Mar High pool likely out of commission for months

The pool at Corona del Mar High, shown on Saturday, is closed for repairs.
The pool at Corona del Mar High, shown on Saturday, is closed for repairs.
(Matt Szabo)

Student-athletes at Corona del Mar High and local residents alike have been displaced, as the pool on campus is closed due to a pump failure.

That’s nothing new for high school pools, but the timeline for this one is much longer than usual — it could be closed for up to six months or more.

Newport-Mesa Unified School District spokeswoman Annette Franco said the Marian Bergeson Aquatics Center will be unavailable due to a “catastrophic failure” of equipment. A malfunction in the vertical turbine pump assembly has resulted in irreparable damage to the pump, siphon tube assembly and pump motor.

“Unfortunately, the parts needed to make the pool operational are manufactured as needed, not warehoused and available through a standard ordering process,” Franco said in an email. “The current lead time estimate to receive the parts is 20 weeks.”

The school shares usage of the pool with the city of Newport Beach, and it is also used heavily by lap swimmers.

Kareem Captan, a teacher at CdM who is also the head swim and boys’ water polo coach, said his swim team has been using Costa Mesa High for practices as the CdM pool was down the last couple of weeks. He was first notified of a possible six-month timeline last Friday.

The CdM pool is currently closed.
The CdM pool is currently closed.
(Matt Szabo)

Parents have been contacting the school board, he said, seeking alternate solutions. A few of them also spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting of the board.

“I think their big question is, have we exhausted all resources to get this problem fixed, or are we just settling for something that takes six months?” Captan said. “From a coach’s standpoint, obviously, I would love to get this pool open as soon as possible, and I’m going to do everything in my power to help get it there. It just displaces all of our athletes, and I want them to be able to have a facility, have a home. But it’s tough. We don’t know what the hell’s going on … Everyone’s looking for answers.”

CdM Principal Jake Haley said in an email to parents Tuesday that the district is looking at all possible solutions, both short- and long-term. A meeting took place Tuesday with Haley, members of the district maintenance team, assistant superintendents and CdM aquatic parents Tim Britt, Joe Stefano, Darin Anderson and Sam Kamel.

Pool engineers were also able to attend the meeting, Britt said, because Anderson is the chief executive of a national engineering firm.

“We are fortunate that several of our aquatic parents in the meeting were familiar with large pool projects for school districts and have engineering backgrounds,” Haley said in the email. “I want to thank our administrative director of maintenance and operations, Lance Bidnick, for working around the clock to find vendors, troubleshoot, collaborate and provide clear updates.”

Haley said engineers and CdM aquatic parents are looking at potential bypass options to rent until a permanent replacement can be installed. Additionally, the district is in conversations with the vendor about possibly expediting the manufactured parts.

In the meantime, the district has also been in contact with Estancia and Newport Harbor high schools about temporary pool usage, as well as Orange Coast College and UC Irvine.

CdM's Camren Simoncelli reacts to a goal during the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs last fall.
CdM’s Camren Simoncelli reacts to a goal during the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs against Orange Lutheran last fall. Simoncelli will be a key senior for the Sea Kings next fall, but their pool availability is in question.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

CdM swim team morning practices at Costa Mesa High have been held at 6 a.m., which is not exactly ideal for those who value sleep.

“Originally they told us two weeks [for the pool to be back up and running],” Captan said. “We’re just doing the best we can.”

There are other concerns. CdM has a large junior class in high school boys’ water polo. Some of the players will be seeking Division I college opportunities as seniors in the fall, and they could be doing that without a home pool for the next few months.

Britt has spent 15 years as a parent in the CdM aquatics program. His senior daughter, Lily, is the fourth child who has come through it.

He spoke at the board meeting Tuesday night, and said Wednesday he is optimistic that something can be done to expedite the pool reopening.

“The good news is, the principal, the superintendent, the school board have all been very supportive,” Britt said. “The district people came to the meeting and were able to answer a lot of our detailed questions. I think they don’t want to over-commit. Right now, the only solution they do have is 20 to 30 weeks. I don’t think we’re ready to quite accept that, so we’re pushing to explore all options.

“I think it’s important to keep the pressure on. It’s always easy to go to the solution you have right now, and I don’t think that’s quite good enough.”

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