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Our Opinion: An unfortunate loss

June 06, 2002

The county Environmental Health Services division has closed the Calipatria High School pools and nothing short of a miracle will get those pools repaired and re-opened in time for summer.

But a miracle is unlikely and, due to the state of the pools' decks and chlorination equipment, there are no quick fixes, leaving the city without recreational swimming this summer.

We understand the need for closing the pools — the dilapidated conditions of the deck and equipment create a safety hazard. We cannot blame county health officials for taking such a step — even if the timing couldn't be worse.

We do, however, find fault with both school and city officials for not staying on top of the issue. City officials might say they have nothing to do with the pools since they belong to the high school district and are maintained by the high school. Nevertheless, the city should have a role because it is kids from the city who use the pool during the summer months.

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High school officials also should have been more pro-active in preventing the kind of mess the city is now in, and it is a mess because kids who live there will now find themselves with less to do during the summer.

The district has a $25 million bond in place approved by voters in the mid-1990s and it would have been a good use of that money to repair or replace the pools before the county was forced to close them.

We urge city, school and even county officials to address this matter. From where we stand there are few things more important during the summer than public swimming pools.

The majority of the Valley's population cannot afford to build or maintain private pools. Visit any community in the Valley with a public swimming pool and note the crowds. Kids need safe places to swim, especially in the Valley where temperatures soar well above 100. Already the mercury is expected to top 110 degrees today, and there are months to go before a cool change is in the wind.

In addition, Calipatria's summer recreational swim team now is without a home, and many young swimmers likely will be unable to compete.

It is time, albeit a little late, to find a quick resolution. There must be other ways to keep Calipatria kids cool and busy. We're not sure what that answer is, but perhaps the Lions Center pool in Brawley can play a role. That would require transportation from Calipatria to Brawley. It would require resources and scheduling and adult supervision. Is it inconvenient? Yes. Is it impossible to accomplish? No. Is it a possible solution? That is for officials to decide.

It's time for leaders to step forward, to make sure the needs of the kids in Calipatria are met. If everyone pulls together, a solution can be found.

In the meantime, we call upon Calipatria school officials to think long-term on this issue and follow the recommendation by Superintendent James Hanks — that new facilities should be built to stand the test of time rather than patching up what you already have and then having to do so again in 10 years.

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