Sink or swim?

[attach]4749[/attach]Back in 2009 when the Toronto District School Board was debating closing some of its pools, the city stepped in and agreed to fund several of the facilities to be used for its various aquatics programs.

Now, with the initial agreement set to expire at the end of 2011, several pool advocates are getting nervous.

“I think there is a threat that some of these will be closed,” said Karen Pitre, chair of the Toronto Sports Council and member of the Aquatic Working Group. “There is a reality that says as part of the city’s analysis and service review, they may decide they don’t need all 33 pools.”

She said the closing of any of the pools used for the city’s aquatics programs would be detrimental because they are community assets.

“People need to come to the conclusion that swimming is an essential skill that needs to be provided,” she said. “We need people to accept the fact that (learning to) swim is an essential service.”

The two sides are in the early phases of negotiation on a new deal but Toronto’s manager of aquatics, Anne Jackson, confirmed that after a comprehensive review of the city’s needs there is a possibility the city will reduce the number of pools it currently leases.

“(It) will definitely be considered,” she said. “I’m sure that will be heavily debated at council.”

However, the number of pools leased would only drop if the city determines it doesn’t need them.

The Community Development and Recreation Committee was to have received an update on negotiations at its June meeting, but Ward 31 councillor Janet Davis moved for it to be deferred to Sept. 14 to let the public comment on the lease renewal.

The Aquatic Working Group has a meeting planned for Sept. 12 at the Central YMCA at 20 Governor St. from 5–7 p.m. to discuss what they hope to see in the new agreement.

Pitre said she hopes all levels of government, as well as the school board and community will push to keep all 33 pools afloat.

“We need to look at how the community can partner,” she said. “If everybody takes a hands-off approach, no one’s going to be able to solve this on their own.”

For 2011, the city paid the school board $6.1 million to lease the 33 pools. The other 32 school pools funded entirely by the board will not be impacted by this agreement.

Toronto District School Board pools currently leased by the city:

Albert Campbell CI
Bedford Park
Bendale BTI
CW Jefferys
DA Morrison
Don Mills CI
Duke of Connaught
Earl Beatty
Georges Vanier
Glen Ames
Gordon A. Brown
L’Amoreaux CI
LB Pearson CI
Nelson A. Boylen
Parkdale PS
Runnymede CI
Sir Oliver Mowat
Sir Wilfrid Laurier
Vaughan Road
Victoria Park SS
West Hill CI
Weston CI
Wexford CI
York Memorial
York Mills CI
Source – Toronto Sports Council