Pulling the Plug

Anthony Lieu is heartbroken he won't be able to join the swim team again next year because the Toronto District School Board is pulling the plug on pools to balance their books.

The 15-year-old Riverdale Collegiate Institute student was one of more than 1,000 students at the school who walked out of classes yesterday to protest the closing of their pool.

"My sport is gone. I feel really bad that I'm not going to be able to swim and compete," said Lieu, who helped plaster the school with signs saying save our pool.

The Toronto school board is closing 23 school pools this summer in a bid to save $4 million and help correct its current $81-million deficit.

Riverdale's competition quality pool costs just under $200,000 a year to operate, principal Raffaele Nigro said.
"It's a very unfortunate decision that we have to decommission our pool," he said.

The pools where the city runs community programs, as well as those needed for special education programs, will remain open.

The estimated cost savings of $4 million can be applied towards the board's budget shortfall or used to fund new investments such as an increased number of English Second Language teachers, board spokesman Kelly Baker said.

An agreement is being negotiated with the city to continue operating pools with city-run community programs until 2011.

KEVIN CONNOR, SUN MEDIA