‘No Perfect Solution’ For Sandwich Community School Pool
By: Alex Scofield
Donna M. Burns expects the Sandwich Community School will resume swimming programs during school hours this fall, but the school will not put a swimming schedule in its fall brochures. There remain too many unknown and unresolved issues regarding adult access to the pool, which is in Sandwich High School, and has been closed to adult swimmers during school hours since late March.
For the past three months, a task force has attempted to craft solutions to the issue of adult pool access, which is unaffected when school is out during the summer months. As fall approaches, though, Sarah B. Salois, a pool member representative on the task force, which met Wednesday, said there is a high level of anxiety among many of her fellow swimmers. They want to know if the daytime programs are returning or not.
“People get anxious, and then rumors start,” Ms. Salois said. “It’s very unsettling.”
“There have been so many unknown and unresolved issues,” Ms. Burns said, and she said that there remained too much uncertainty to print schedules in the fall brochures. Still, she added, “The expectation is that we’ll have some daytime hours in the fall.”
The Sandwich School Committee in March approved a proposal by then-Schools Superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson to close the pool to adults between 7 AM and 2 PM. Dr. Johnson said she had received a call from a parent who was upset that adults using the pool shared locker and shower facilities with students at Sandwich High School. The school committee appeared to have a temporary solution in April, when it voted to tentatively restore a limited measure of adult access during the school day, pending approval by Sandwich’s building inspector, health inspector, and insurer.
However, when the task force first met in early May, its members quickly determined it was not feasible to implement the school committee’s proposal before the end of the school year.
“There was no quick fix,” said Ralph E. Tetrault, facilities manager for Sandwich schools.
However, by Wednesday, the task force had crafted a short-term solution that could enable the Community School to resume a number of its daytime programs. The doors leading in and out of the locker rooms from the pool area will be double-locked during school hours, allowing no entrance or exit. A single shower will be installed in a small room near the pool, and the room will serve as a unisex area for swimmers to rinse before using the pool. Six cabanas—three on either side of the diving board—will serve as changing areas.
In order to become a reality, the task force’s proposal requires approval by the school committee, which next meets on August 3. The committee is differently composed from the one that approved the task force, restricted daytime pool access, then attempted to partially restore it. Members Susan L. Sundermeyer and Robert P. Catalini now hold the seats formerly occupied by Sharron L. Marshall and Barbara A. Susko.
In addition to the new committee members, Dr. Johnson was succeeded as superintendent by C. Richard Canfield at the beginning of this month. Dr. Canfield attended Wednesday’s task force meeting at Sandwich High School. He said his inclination is to be research-oriented, and said the task force’s challenge reminded him of problem-solving approaches that caution against expectations of a perfect, foolproof solution.
“There is no such thing as a perfect solution,” Dr. Canfield said. “There really are only temporary resolutions.”
Indeed, there remain concerns among many task force members about the potential level of interest in daytime swimming programs served by a single, unisex rinsing area.
The task force members’ hearts are in the right places, Dr. Canfield continued, but there are people who will pick apart any resolution the task force presents.
“That’s fine,” said task force member Marie A. Kangas of the school committee. “Our main objective was to keep our children safe. … The children are going to be safe.”
The pool task force was also charged with crafting a long-term solution—or resolution—for enabling communitywide access to a pool located within a school building. Working within the school’s existing footprint holds little promise, Mr. Tetreault said. The building’s design is not friendly to non-students accessing the pool area, in part because there is no parking in the rear of the building near the pool. Portable locker rooms are available, but prohibitively expensive.
Any effective, long-term resolution will require the pool to have its own entrance, said Audrey L. Senese, co-director of the community school.
“I would like to see a separate outside entrance with locker rooms,” Ms. Senese said.
For now, however, the task force moves forward with its short-term solution, in hopes of gaining the necessary approval to proceed with the installation of the shower, double-door locks, and cabanas.
“We have to remember that we’re doing something with nothing,” Mr. Tetreault said.
“This is uncharted territory,” Ms. Burns said. “We’ll have to see how it goes.”