Fern school pool saved

Board votes to reopen the elementary school’s aquatic facility
Community, school, volunteers raise revenue to keep pool open
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 1 for Town Crier.)

Fern Elementary School’s pool is now saved and could reopen as soon as Oct. 12. 
It was on a probationary list of 13 facilities to be drained by the end of the year if sufficient permit revenue couldn’t be found. 
But the school and community rallied together to find enough money to convince the Toronto District School Board to keep Fern’s pool afloat. 
On Sept. 16, the school board voted to keep pools open at Fern, Jarvis, Downsview and Queen Alexandra and now just nine pools on the caution list. 
Fern principal Craig Tsuji said they had to cover about $30,000 in costs.
“People are passionate about keeping as much (resources) in their community as possible,” he said. “The Roncesvalles community really likes neighbourhood shopping, neighbourhood school, pool and market.”Part of it is a focus on being environmentally friendly and being able to walk or cycle with everything close by. So if the pool closed, he said, the community would lose a local resource.
“They don’t want to go too far for services,” Tsuji said.
Parents, school staff and residents have been able to attract $15,000 worth of permit revenue so far, Tsuji told the Town Crier Oct. 1. 
When it comes to securing the remaining $15,000, the principal has plans that include the possibility of permitting the pool all summer or permitting the pool for community use and charging per swim to cover the cost. 
One thing is for certain: the pool is saved. 
“The parents are telling me they are happy. And people really won’t believe it until their kids are in the water getting wet.” 
There was a permit holder using the pool after school that has since left as the facility is technically closed. Tsuji is hoping to get that permit back. Come mid-October, the pool will be used during the day as well. 
Additionally, the province committed $15.8 million for capital repairs for up to 32 pools. Fern is now one of those on the list.
As part of that agreement, any pool that gets capital repairs will have to remain open for at least eight years. If not, the school board will have to repay the province for the capital funds.
This is a double-edged sword, swim activists said at an Aquatic Working Group meeting on Sept. 29. It means they have a long-term commitment to keep the pools open for at least eight years but to keep these facilities open, they need to find enough permits to go beyond just a short-term solution. 
The AWG was formed under the leadership of former mayor David Crombie, who’s been given the task of saving 40 pools.
So far, 26 have been saved over the past year, seven will permanently close and nine are in flux. 
At the recent AWG meeting, volunteers brainstormed on how to save the remaining nine pools before Dec. 31. 
Some of the ideas that came out of the session were to reach out to other staff and parents at neighbouring schools and daycares that may be interested in permitting swim classes, and to tap swim clubs to run programs out of the remaining pools. There’s also a charitable Toronto Swim Fund set up to take donations to help pay for operating costs and subsidize kids who can’t afford swim lessons. 
“We need to close the gap with the nine (left),” Crombie said.

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