School board to pull the plug on pools

Meghan Phillips-Smith, a Grade 7 student at Deer Park School, has been swimming her whole life with the Toronto Swim Club. She began swimming when she was depressed as a child and needed a reason to be happy again.

But because of a decision made at the Toronto District School Board Meeting last night (April 16), Smith will lose the opportunity to swim with her club when the pool at Deer Park School closes in June.

At a long and tense meeting, school trustees decided to pull the plug on 23 TDSB pools across the city starting in June, with another 16 to follow in June 2009.

“I’ve been swimming my whole life and it’s such a big part of who I am,” Smith said after hearing the decision last night. “We’ve done almost everything we can and just have to get more people involved … it’s a shame to close all these pools.”

After a heated debate among trustees, the decision was made to stand by the board’s 2007 decision to decommission the pools.

The decision means that 53 swimming programs will be affected this year. The city voted last June to decommission the pools unless funding was secured, and the government has not been willing to provide it.

The board did make some headway when a motion was passed to have former Toronto mayor David Crombie open a dialogue between the city, province and school board about possible funding sources.

Beaches-East York trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher proposed adding a specific date for these discussions to end.

“It’s important that the pressure remains strong,” Cary-Meagher said. “With the track record of this premier it could trickle away.”

The recommendation to add a date did not pass when voted on by the board, but Crombie will proceed as an intermediary in the situation.

Toronto-Danforth trustee Cathy Dandy believes this is good progress.

“The good news story is that Trustee Davis and Ward, because they know David Crombie, have managed to get him to agree,” Dandy said.

St. Paul’s trustee Josh Matlow says the decision made tonight is an important one.

“Our constituents want us to be problem solvers,” Matlow said. “These parties will be coming together to accept a common challenge.”