City works to open 6 high school poolsCoaches would've been forced to cancel competitive indoor swimming season if enough facilities could not be repaired and certified safe for students to use

December 08, 2005|By SARA NEUFELD | SARA NEUFELD,SUN REPORTER

The Baltimore school system appears to have fixed six school pools just in time to save the indoor swim season.

The swim season started Nov. 15, but as of a week ago , not a single city school had a pool that was certified to operate. At Digital Harbor High School, the 38 students on the swim team were running through the halls to get in shape.

Athletic directors and coaches told the city school system they would be forced to cancel their season if six pools weren't up and running by yesterday, which was supposed to be the start of competitive meets. The meets, involving nine city teams, are now scheduled to begin next week, to give students a chance to practice before they compete.

Yesterday morning, the pools were up and running at the Polytechnic Institute/Western High School complex (Poly and Western have separate teams but share a pool), City College and Northwestern High, said Alexandra Hughes, assistant to city schools Chief Executive Officer Bonnie S. Copeland.

In addition, Hughes said, the pool was fixed at George W.F. McMechen Middle/High, a school for special education students that does not have a swim team.

At Digital Harbor and Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical high schools, the pools were undergoing final inspections by the Health Department yesterday afternoon, Hughes said. Also yesterday, she said, the paperwork was being finalized for the pool at Forest Park High to operate.

At Patterson and Paul Laurence Dunbar high schools, the pools require major repairs, but the teams have arranged to swim at community pools. Roger Wrenn, the athletic director at Patterson, said crews have been out to examine the Patterson pool in the past few days.

Now that his teams have a place to practice, Wrenn is concerned about the school system having enough certified staff to inspect and maintain the chemical levels in the pools as often as required.

"I think they're going to have some trouble keeping them operational," he said.

Added David Lang, the athletic director at Western High: "It's great to get them all open, but the ongoing daily inspection is a whole other operation. ... It's just a matter of the daily maintenance required in these pools, whether we're able to keep the season going."

Hughes said pool inspection and maintenance won't be a problem.

School system officials said they started pool repairs late this year because they were working to fix school boilers in time for the winter.

Around the city, students and their parents were thrilled that the swim season was saved.

Rosemary Bradford said her son and daughter, both on the Digital Harbor swim team, are "ecstatic."

"They are so glad they get to swim this season," Bradford said. Her daughter, Sarah, hopes to get a college scholarship for her swimming ability.

People involved in the swim teams were not the only ones celebrating. At Western High, students in an advanced swimming class held during the school day got into the pool Tuesday for the first time in nearly three months, said physical education teacher Sue Winemiller.

"We're back in," Winemiller said, "and it looks like we're in for a while."

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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