The pool closing at Danforth Collegiate & Technical Institute could have a detrimental effect on those student populations that need it most, particularly immigrant and special needs students, warns Ward 15 trustee Cathy Dandy.
Danforth Tech’s pool, which was built in 1927, was closed because it was in a severe state of disrepair and the school was not able to raise the funds necessary to maintain it. In addition, the school decided the pool was not essential to the physical education program.
However, according to Dandy, trustee for Toronto-Danforth, a significant number of immigrant and special needs students used the pool to learn basic water safety skills before it was closed in late June.
“One of my big issues about Danforth closing is that we have a very high special needs population there, and we have a pretty high percentage of new immigrants coming to that school who know nothing about even basic water safety,” Dandy said.
To Dandy, teaching water safety skills to immigrant and special needs students was one of the crucial services the pool did for the community.
“The instructor there that taught swimming said a lot of his work in the pool was getting basic swimming and safety skills in place for these kids,” Dandy said.
While giving training on swimming safety to special needs children may be more understandable, some may wonder why it would be necessary to teach these skills to immigrant students. While teaching water safety may be a given for most Canadian families, Dandy says that for many cultures it is a foreign concept.
“There’s a couple of stumbling blocks for new immigrants and cultural communities,” Dandy said. “For many of these communities swimming isn’t even on their radar as a life skill because of where they’re from.”
And although students will not be able to learn these skills at Danforth Tech any longer, the community is looking at using the pools at neighboring schools such as Monarch Park Collegiate and Queen Alexandra Senior Public School, says Danforth Tech’s principal David Moore.
“It’s not like we have no options at all for the special needs students,” Moore said. “In some cases it would be better off to have another pool with more resources.”
According to Rick Daigle, central facilities services manager, some of the major issues with Danforth Tech’s pool were mechanical and infrastructure problems, such as a leaking roof, electrical issues, and equipment malfunctioning.
A new pool supply air fan would have cost $40,000, and to fix the piping would be around $50,000. In total, the final repair costs tallied at $511,000, which was deemed too much to cover. Leasing the pool out to the public wasn’t an option due to the pool’s physical state.
And as the pool closes for good, some such as Dandy feel it will still be a while before the full impact is understood.
“Right when we’re finally closing some of these pools,” Dandy said, “we’re becoming more and more aware of the impact on (our student’s) mental and physical well-being.”