At Baltimore City College, out of the pool
I got a call yesterday from the three very frustrated captains of the Baltimore City College swim team, all seniors at the school. Since swim season started in November, the co-ed team has yet to be able to practice in the City pool because of one problem after another: with the drain, with mold, and so on. Several times, they thought the pool would open. Every time, something else came up. There are enormous challenges associated with maintaining a pool up to the health department's strict standards in buildings as old as Baltimore's high schools; this isn't the first time I've written about students stopped from swimming.
City has tried to make accommodations for its students this season. Those haven't worked out, either.
The team started out practicing at the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg YMCA. But the practice hours after school were during the Y's peak time, and the students had to move on. On to Mervo, where the pool was shut down more than a week ago for problems of its own. School athletic officials then arranged, and paid for, the swim teams from City and Poly (where the pool has also been out of commission the past few days) to practice at a public city pool, Callowhill Aquatics Center. The students took buses there only to find out that, oops, swim classes were going on and they couldn't get in.
Which brings us to today, when the City and Poly swim teams are scheduled to compete against each other in advance of Saturday's Baltimore swim championships. Only neither team has been able to practice in more than a week. About half the students on the City team have already quit. After consulting with those remaining, the captains were so frustrated that they were prepared yesterday to forfeit their season, undefeated thus far (albeit with some meets canceled). But, it turns out, only school athletic officials can make the decision to forfeit, and at least a few students on the team still want to swim. And so today's meet will go on.
It's worth noting that the pool isn't the only problem in the building at City, the so-called Castle on the Hill. The school was closed last week due to lack of heat. When I talked to Principal Tim Dawson last night, he said the pool situation underscores the dire need for school construction dollars to upgrade old facilities. "The kids have a right to be upset about this," he said.
UPDATE: Poly's pool, which was expected to be ready by today, is still inoperable, so the meet between the rival schools has been canceled.