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New Hartford residents express concern about potential closing of pool

Alexis Manore
Staff writer
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Posted 8/18/22

New Hartford residents voiced concerns about the potential removal of the pool at Ralph Perry Junior High School at a New Hartford Board of Education meeting ...

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New Hartford residents express concern about potential closing of pool

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NEW HARTFORD — New Hartford residents voiced concerns about the potential removal of the pool at Ralph Perry Junior High School at a New Hartford Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16.   

Ralph Perry Junior High School pool 

As part of an almost $40 million capital project, Perry Junior High will receive upgrades to its athletic facilities like the varsity and modified softball fields, the track, its modified football and baseball facilities, and while no official decision has been made — the pool may be removed as part of the renovations.

The potential removal of the pool has elicited pushback from New Hartford residents who see the value in the Perry Junior High pool. 

Luke Vanderlan, a student representative to the Board of Education, said that multiple students and their parents have spoken to him about why they think the pool is necessary; for physical education classes, for extracurriculars and for swim programs. 

“There are also potential difficulties it would pose if, later down the line, as we’re talking about innovation, if we decide, ‘Oh wait, we want to add that back,’” Vanderlan said. “... A lot of people feel as if it is a good resource to have at Perry.” 

Superintendent of Schools Cosimo Tangorra Jr. said the official decision about the elimination or retention of the pool is months away, and that it will only be made when all of the necessary data is presented to the board. 

He said that the architects who are designing the improved facilities are still in the design process. They will create a design of Perry with a pool and without a pool, and both designs will be presented at a public board of education meeting.   

“There will be pros and cons to either situation, there’s no perfect or ideal situation,” Tangorra said. “So I would anticipate eight months or so before the final design is done, before it gets submitted to the state for approval. They’ll come back to the board and have a public conversation with the board and open it up to public comment.” 

Tangorra promised to provide any updates on the situation. 

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, neither the pool in the high school nor the one at Perry will be used for physical education for the 2022–23 school year. Because of the pandemic, swimming has not been a part of the physical education curriculum for the past few years.

The pools are now only used for varsity swim teams, extracurricular activities, club programs and community programming. 

One resident who is the parent of a swimmer questioned why there is even a discussion being held about removing the pool. 

“What is the reason for the whole conversation of removing the pool?” she asked. “I believe in the exercise, I believe that we need to have it in. We need to support it even more. If it’s used too little, to increase that. Everybody should be able to know how to swim.”  

Another resident gave examples of what will be lost if the Perry pool is removed. He said that fewer children will learn how to swim, which will result in children being less safe. 

He also talked about the lifeguards who teach swim classes and staff the Perry pool, the majority of whom are New Hartford students. 

“What are they doing at those jobs? … They’re showing up on time, they’re communicating, they’re showing initiative, they’re doing the things that we want them to do as adults,” he said. “And practicing [those skills] because we have the opportunity here at the school for them. If we have fewer swim lessons, we have less practice for those students.”  

District Safety Plan 

The board presented the District Wide School Safety Plan to the public for comment at the meeting. 

School districts are required to adopt a public safety plan, which is created to prevent or minimize violent incidents and emergency situations in schools, and to outline the school district’s response to emergency situations. 

For the 2022–23 school year, New Hartford is not making any changes to its school safety plan, but changes can be made at any time. 

One resident asked about preparations for active shooting situations, specifically if students are aware of what to do if they are outside of the classroom during a shooting. 

“My son is on the spectrum. Would he know that if he’s in the bathroom, that he’s to shut the door and barricade it?” She asked, “Do they know in advance that that’s what they should be doing, that he’s not supposed to be running out in the hall and trying to get back into a classroom?” 

Tangorra said that every emergency situation is different, so it depends on what is happening at the time. He did say that there are four lockdown drills per year so that students know what to do during a lockdown. 

Each school also has its own safety plan that goes more in-depth about the emergency response plan for each specific school building. These plans are kept confidential. The board of education voted to adopt the building safety plans for the 2022–23 year. 

The next meeting for the New Hartford Board of Education will be 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6.

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