Postpone pool closings

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Find ways to save pools: Crombie.   Former mayor urges closings be postponed until solutions explored

Toronto Star  May 16, 2008  Emily Mathieu


Hold off on draining Toronto's school pools – at least until summer.   That is former Toronto mayor David Crombie's message to the Toronto District School Board, and one he repeated last night at a summit organized to discuss solutions to keep kids swimming.

"The board in its own view needed to draw a line that said we cannot afford these pools. But there may be some other solutions," said Crombie yesterday at the event, part of the Toronto Sports Council Summit Series, entitled The Future of Aquatics in Toronto and held at the Canadian Tire Conference Centre at 2200 Yonge St.

The meeting was attended by parents, teachers, members from the aquatic advocacy group Let's Make Waves, and representatives from the city and groups like the YMCA.

Without funding, more than 20 pools could be empty by June, with about 40 pools in city schools slated for drainage this year or next.

Crombie said he appreciates the board's position – that it can't fund the pools without outside help – but worries they're not exploring all their options. "I'm asking them to keep their resolve but also give the process a chance."

There needs to be a combined effort between the public and private sector, he said.

"The reality is that under the current funding conditions we have to choose between core education services and pools," said attendee Howard Goodman, a TDSB trustee. "It's a terrible choice."

A parent of two students who swim, Goodman has an interest in helping his community understand the TDSB's dilemma and finding ways to keep pools open, he said, adding the board faces a $10 million annual bill to maintain pools.

Goodman said the solution is support from the provincial or federal government, or the private sector, or community at large.

Let's Make Waves officials also suggested funds spent on upkeep be re-evaluated.

"Swimming is a really critical part of my children's education and how they see themselves as athletes," said Debbie Gordon. "Both of my children will be losing their pools."

Her daughter, 16, is a synchronized swimmer at Riverdale Collegiate Institute's pool and her 13-year-old son swims competitively at the Earl Grey Senior Public School pool. She said Riverdale's pool is to be drained June 30.

"This pool is 14 years old, it's a beautiful facility," she said. "The city has no business closing (it). … It's not a well-thought-out plan."

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