mass walkout for pools

CityNews.ca  April 10, 2008

Parents and students joined together in a loud protest to save their school pools on Thursday, but their collective voice did little to sway the cash-strapped Toronto District School Board.

The TDSB made the surprise announcement last week that it was planning to shut down 34 of the swimming holes at the end of this year and another 16 in 2009 as a means to save more than $4 million a year.

That sparked a series of protests that culminated with Thursday night's gathering at Board headquarters at 5050 Yonge St.

"This is about obesity, this is about the Olympics, this is about prevention of mental illness, this is about a whole range of issues and we need an integrated solution," argued Toronto-Danforth trustee Cathy Dandy.

But in the end pool supporters would leave with little satisfaction.

"We have little choice but to abandon what I believe is precious," said Eglinton-Lawrence Trustee Howard Goodman.

"At the moment we are looking at a $13million shortfall for next year, and that's with taking out the $4million for the pools."

It was a sad conclusion for those who started protesting early Thursday at gatherings across the city. Some arrived at Allenby Jr. Public School on St. Clements Ave. at 8:15am , where kids and adults shouted "Save Our Pools!" as school officials arrived for work.

Most of the older folks involved believe getting the kids to raise their voice against the idea is the key to stopping the shutdown. "I think it's important that we maintain the pools for fun and for the education, physical education of the kids," explains parent Carl Hathaway. "I think it's very important that we're out to show City Hall that we mean business. We're supportive."

Students at Riverdale Collegiate, some wearing their bathing suits, conducted a mass class walkout at 2pm to press their point against the closures. But the big show should come when possibly hundreds meet outside Board Headquarters to pool their resources and try and save the facilities.

The Board insists the city and the province aren't giving them much choice and the cash strapped system needs the funds elsewhere. Their premise: with so little cash available, they can't afford to spend money like – or on –  water.