“This isn’t over by a long shot,”

Wednesday April 16, 2008  CityNews.ca

A months-long battle to keep almost two-dozen Toronto District School Board pools open appears to have come to an end.

Despite the countless protests which brought hundreds of bathing suit-clad students to the foot of Queen's Park, the TDSB voted against reopening discussion on the closure of 23 pools Wednesday night. The plan will see the pools drained in June, with 16 more to follow next year.

Despite the vote however, certain individuals remained optimistic that a partnership with the provincial government could still bail out the financially-strapped pools.

"This isn't over be a long shot," promised trustee Cathy Dandy. "We're going to find that the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health Promotion should be coming to the table."

Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie was also on hand, trying to serve as a mediator between the Board, the province and the city, though he wasn't entirely optimistic a solution would be uncovered.

"The idea is, how can we restart discussions between the city, the province and the school board because all of those groups have hardened up, they've hardened their positions."

Meanwhile, in a disconcerting twist, the fate of the very buildings the controversial pools sit in also came into question Wednesday, after a report suggested 91 schools in the city are half empty and thus, rapidly draining the municipality's finances.

"The under-capacity of schools amounts to the biggest financial albatross around the board's neck," said TDSB Chair John Campbell.

Though an official list of schools that could be shut down hasn't surfaced, any of those operating at less than fifty per cent of capacity are being blamed for the loss of tens of millions each year.

Telling that to parents, however, isn't quite so simple.

"I would be devastated," one mother admitted when asked how she would feel if her child's school was emptied into another.

At issue is declining enrollment, something that's causing a stir across Ontario. Toronto has roughly 4,000 fewer students each year, a trend that's expected to continue.

"Boards everywhere, not just the TDSB, have got to grapple with the issue of declining enrollment," insisted Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.