Officials worry that Shea High pool may not reopen

Officials worry that Shea High pool may not reopen

Work to repair the ceiling over the pool at Shea High School is ongoing but school officials say a true fix will cost $65,000, potentially jeopardizing the upcoming swim season. (Valley Breeze photos by Tom Ward)
Swim team could be disbanded

PAWTUCKET - More ceiling troubles, this time above the swimming pool at Shea High School, are threatening a "domino effect" of problems for school swimming programs, say officials.

An inspection in the spring revealed that the tile above the pool was not up to standard, posing a potential risk of falling on swimmers below, according to Supt. Deborah Cylke.

The tile has since been taken down and the ceiling patched and painted, said Cylke, but, like many other ceilings across the district, an engineering firm has now deemed the original ceiling above the tile to be unstable.

The cost of taking down the unstable ceiling and replacing it with a new one is estimated to be about $65,000, said Cylke. That price tag would be especially difficult for a district that has already spent nearly $1 million on ceiling repairs this year.

"We don't have a large budget to address those kinds of issues," Cylke told members of the Pawtucket School Committee last week.

A decision to close the pool would have a "domino effect" for the district, said Cylke, especially with the 2013-2014 swim season approaching.

Cylke told The Breeze she would probably know by mid-week whether the pool will reopen.

Ray McGee, athletic director at Shea High, said that everything in the pool area will remain covered as staff await word on whether the pool will open again. Work on the ceiling is ongoing, he said.

"We've got our fingers crossed that everything will be in order for the swim season, which officially starts Dec. 2," said McGee. "We're just on hold waiting to see exactly what's going to happen."

The biggest demand for the pool is certainly during the swim season, said McGee, but the facility is used for various programs throughout the year.

Shea Principal Donald Miller said that a failure to reopen the pool would "force our swim team to disband." Though Tolman High School has a functional pool, said Miller, "I think coordinating the schedules for swim practice and meets will be extremely difficult."

McGee also looked into the possibility of combining the swim programs and Shea and Tolman, said Miller, but the request was denied by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League.

In the spring, a ceiling in the basement of Potter-Burns Elementary School collapsed, starting a chain of events that led to discoveries of numerous other potentially unsafe ceilings in Pawtucket schools. As they continue to address the problems, school officials say they've closed down all rooms where ceilings pose any type of risk. Slater Junior High School was shut down for two school days, on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, so workers could fix a ceiling containing asbestos.

The swim team banner that hangs by the Shea High School pool is crisscrossed by workers' scaffolding.

Comments

I've been asking the schools for many years why corporate sponsorship is not sought out for budget shortfalls, but have not gotten an explanation as to why it is frowned upon. How many corporations would jump at the opportunity to have the school's pool, or other athletic facility named after them or have their logo prominently displayed at events? $65,000 would represent a drop in the advertising bucket for companies like Hasbro, GTech, APC, or even a major university. When my school was crying about having to cancel all their sports because they had no money for class room supplies, I suggested that someone contact IBM, Microsoft, Apple, HP, (ETC.) to inquire about sponsorship programs for PCs. They looked at me like I was crazy! Apparently, this approach would not allow the school deparetment to increase their budget and cut everyone in on a "piece of the pie". So, instead of thinking proactively for the betterment of the educational experience for our children, once again, greed is the untimate motivator, using our children as pawns to extort the taxpayer. Go ahead...prove me wrong!

Stuck in the Valley seems to have a good idea which could be extended to school alumnae/i. For example, I could envision the pool bearing the Ginish moniker, that family having been avid swimmers back in the day.

The community might be better served by naming city edifices after generous local benefactors, such as our well-used Deborah Cook Sayles Public Library, instead of being named after the usual assortment of political hacks.

That said, if the political will is, in reality, to eventually close the school and convert it into housing for the elderly in the manner of the old Jenks Junior High on Broadway, then any discussion of renovation is moot.

Rather than spending all this money on Blackstone Valley Prep it should be invested in our existing schools. They just moved into new office space in Pawtucket for their Administrative staff of 20+ employees and they are planning to build a new High School all financed by the taxpayers.

Where are my taxes going? Most Pawtucket teachers make $70,000 salaries plus benefits and pension contributions. Many teachers and administrators make 6 figures. We are paying pensions for retired school department members. We over pay when we have to repair school roofs. There is a lot of wasted money and inefficiencies within the school department. Why are we surprised when there is not enough money for something that will benefit the kids? If school department employees stop being over payed and benefited and if the school department begins to be managed efficiently then we may be able to afford a swimming pool. In Pawtucket you can work 9 months a year as a physical education teacher and make $70,000 plus health benefits plus a pension contribution. Just another one of the many symptoms of Pawtucket's disease: government worker/politician greed.

The reasons behind School building repair problems go back to when Mr. Busald was on the School Committee. The current buildings are not capable of fulfilling today's educational student needs. Our focus should be education, The only cost effective method of education will be shown to be distance learning with School attendance a 2 or 3 times a week event. Teacher cost will then lower and we will be able to gauge learning through a fair equitable testing of each student with remedial learning targeted at each student.

In an educational environment where student engagement is the key to success we need to have facilities to meet the needs of all students. As a member of the swim teams from 1970-1973 I was able to feel part of the school community and contribute representing our city at all levels of competition. As you can see the pool is not the best design to develop world class swimmers but closing the pool and eliminating the program would do much harm to students needing to learn life's skills for survival and competition. If not for people like Arthur Boyce at the Boys Club or Dick Arrighi at West High School and others in the school swimming community I may not have gone on to Study, Compete and Coach at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Work with the Special Olympics Programs at Brown University and ultimately learn to set life goals and work to achieve them.

Please consider that this money will be well spent if only one life is changed or saved because a young person learned a life skill in a facility unlikely to be replaced if not repaired.