The water is fine, the cabanas are built and it is officially okay to go back into the pool.
On Wednesday night, Superintendent of Schools C. Richard Canfield announced that the pool would resume its full operational schedule beginning next week. The pool is scheduled to open at 5 AM on Tuesday, September 27. According to Community School Co-director Donna M. Burns, although they were hoping to open Monday morning, there are some equipment issues that need to be addressed.
“I’m so happy it’s open again. I’m very excited. When I got the call this morning, I was so happy to hear the news,” said pool user Sophie V. Vanderzee of Forestdale.
Ms. Vanderzee, who has spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord, said she has been attending the morning water aerobics classes for two years—after her doctor at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital prescribed the exercise as a way to reduce her pain.
But the 78-year-old woman has not been able to participate in these morning classes since March of this year. That is when then-Superintendent of Schools Mary Ellen Johnson made the decision to close the pool during daytime hours after a parent complained that adults were sharing locker rooms with students. A task force committee was formed shortly afterward to look at options that would allow the daytime swimming programs while keeping students and members of the community separated.
The committee recommended that the doors leading in and out of the locker rooms from the pool area be double-locked during school hours, allowing no entrance or exit. A single existing showerhead in the pool area will allow swimmers to rinse before and after entering the pool. Six cabanas—three on either side of the diving board—will serve as changing areas.
Ms. Vanderzee said although she attended some of the water aerobic classes that were open in the afternoons, those classes did not provide her with the same physical benefit. She explained that because the water exercise program helps to reduce the pain she experiences, it is best to do the activity in the morning so that she can get through the day relatively pain-free.
Over the years, she said she found that this program has not only provided a physical benefit, it has offered emotional benefits, as well. She said her social life has expanded with the friends she has made in the class.
“My neighbor and I go to the class together, and we met another group of women there and sometimes we get together and go out to lunch,” she said.
The pool completely closed on August 14 for routine maintenance repairs. Although Community School officials were hoping that the six cabanas would be built and installed in time for the district’s opening day of school so that the pool could be opened and fully operational on the same day, that was not possible.
With the arrival of tropical storm Irene on August 28, which turned the high school into a temporary shelter, custodians had to turn their attention toward ensuring that all school buildings were ready for opening day and construction of the cabanas had to be put on hold.
Building materials for the structures arrived last week and Interim Director of Facilities James A. Booth and maintenance staff member Douglas S. Hill quickly began constructing the changing rooms.
On Wednesday night, Dr. Canfield gave high marks to both men for building the cabanas so quickly. The cost of the changing facilities, Dr. Canfield said, came in at a little less than $4,000, which was less than originally estimated and will be paid for out of the Community School’s reserve account.
Ms. Vanderzee said she is delighted to hear that the pool will officially be open on Tuesday morning and that she can resume her exercise program. “I was very excited to hear the news. I was wondering how I was going to get through the winter without the program. It’s good to have it back in the mornings,” she said.