The price of pools

School pools cut as Pan Am builds swimming facilities

The Pan Am Games are going to cost Toronto almost exactly what the province spends running every public school in Ontario per year. That’s about where the similarities end, though.

The Games, costing $1.4 billion plus $1 billion for an athletes village, are building a series of new swimming pools stretching along the Golden Horseshoe.

Schools, which cost the province $2.5 billion per year, are closing down swimming pools, ending the long tradition of teaching students – and perhaps future Pan American athletes – swimming as permanent curriculum.

Central Tech, a vocational art school in the west end, is one of nine Toronto schools that may be forced to shut down its pool in the coming months. The TDSB says the pool’s operation is too expensive, and cutting swimming out of the budget (along with the eight other schools) will save just over half a million.

There’s been no word as to where the money would be reallocated, but they have confirmed they view these programs as a subsidy they’re no longer willing to absorb.

In 2015, Pan Am athletes will have access to four new pools, including a $170 million aquatic centre at UofT’s Scarborough campus and a velodrome in Hamilton. Ironically that’s just enough years away for the next round of Central Tech enrolees to use it once they graduate.

On its own, Central Tech would have to sell $70,000 worth of rentals annually to maintain student access to the pool. Over the weekend students held a gala and silent auction to raise money.

The driving force behind the initiative is the historical significance the building has in the Bloor/Bathurst area. This in addition to another neighbourhood pool, at Kensington Community School, is also slated to be shuttered.

The cause “has given the neighborhood an opportunity to reaquaint themselves with their community,” says says spokesperson Susan Puris.

The school’s 2000 students “come from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds and this is often the only access they have to these kind of facilities,” Puris added.

Information on saving the pools is here.[rssbreak]

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