Task Force Plunges Into Pool Access Predicament
By: Alex Scofield
Following a series of emotionally charged Sandwich School Committee meetings on the issue of adult access to the Sandwich Community School swimming pool, a 12-member task force has now been charged with finding both short-term and long-term fixes for the dilemma.
In late March, the school committee approved a proposal by Schools Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson to close the pool to adults during school hours. Dr. Johnson said she had received a call from a parent who was upset that adults using the pool shared locker room and shower facilities with students at Sandwich High School, where the pool is located.
The school committee’s March decision still stands. For the remainder of the school year, the pool will be closed to adults from 7 AM to 2 PM on school days. The policy was tentatively overturned by the school committee on April 29, when the committee voted to restore a restricted amount of adult pool access pending approval from Sandwich’s building inspector, health inspector, and insurer.
However, the task force determined at its first meeting on May 2 that this proposal was not achievable before the school year ends.
Instead, task force members are working on a similar solution to implement in the fall. This short-term solution will likely consist of single-sex swimming classes, in which swimmers use a cold rinsing shower in a small room near the pool, and use separate changing stalls that will be installed on the pool deck.
Ralph E. Tetreault, facilities manager for Sandwich schools, said that six or eight changing stalls could be installed in the pool area, with three or four on either side of the diving board.
“I hope the people will understand, it will not be what they were used to,” said Donna M. Burns, community school co-director.
“But we’re hoping it will be better than nothing at all,” said Marie A. Kangas, one of three school committee members on the pool task force, along with Nancy A. Crossman and Robert P. Catalini.
Ms. Burns and pool director Maria Richard, who is also a task force member, both stressed the urgency of creating a workable temporary solution by the fall, when the pool is used in the early afternoon by the varsity girls’ swimming team.
“We’re going to lose the 2:30 time,” Ms. Richard said, in addition to the seven school hours that has been lost to adult swimmers under the new policy.
Task force member Sarah B. Salois, a pool member, said that swimmers would been unable to wash their hair, and would have to take their clothes to the dressing area.
“It’s the only alternative we can come up with at this time,” said Ms. Richard. “It’s not ideal, I agree.”
At the same time, task force members are attempting to forge a long-term solution that, they hope, could be implemented in the 2012-13 school year.
In order to provide separate pool access for adults, the task force has considered adding permanent or portable changing rooms outside the SHS building, or a reconfiguration of the school’s existing locker rooms to separate adults from students.
The task force toured the pool area with the Sandwich Health Department on Tuesday, in part to assess the current locker room design and the feasibility of separating facilities for adults and students.
“After the walk-through [Tuesday] I’m a little more optimistic,” Mr. Tetreault said about reconfiguring the rooms.
For the summer months, the pool will revert to adult swim programs during the morning and early afternoon. The summer schedule runs from June 27 through August 13. After that, the school building closes for routine annual custodial maintenance before reopening for the school year.
“The thing that keeps me optimistic is that we still have people coming to the programs,” Ms. Richard said.
The task force held its second meeting on Wednesday, and will reconvene on June 1. The task force’s proposals will need final approval from the health inspector and the school committee.
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