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Holland School Board cracks down on access to community pool

Procedures at the Holland community pool, shared by residents and students, drew strong criticism from school attorneys, the state Education Department and insurance officials this week after it was discovered that student lifeguards have keys to the facility and that adults are not always on had to supervise the pool area.

The problem came to light earlier this week when a student lifeguard, on duty at the morning swim, locked up and left the building after she believed that the pool facility was empty. An adult swimmer still in the locker room tripped off an alarm as he attempted to leave the building.

School Superintendent Cathy Fabiatos said keys have been turned in from student lifeguards and key codes to access the pool have been changed. In addition, the School Board on Tuesday approved spending through the end of the school year that will allow for adult supervision at the pool when the lifeguard on duty is not 18 years old.

The pool is in the former middle school building.

The new restrictions brought complaints from several student lifeguards at the board meeting who said that their lifeguard training gives them a maturity beyond their age and that they should have been able to keep their keys.

Fabiatos countered, “A huge part of my job is to ensure everyone is safe and keep the district out of liability’s path. Our insurance carrier put us on notice: Take corrective action by Friday or lock the pool. And our attorneys said students never should have had keys to the building even though they only accessed the pool area.”

The superintendent added that state education officials said the situation could have resulted in a huge liability for the district.

Prior to the incident, the community pool was already on the agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting due to red ink.

Last year, the pool lost $121,000 and so far this year losses total $84,000.

As a result, the School Board agreed to revisit the viability of maintaining the pool in September.

In the meantime, it made a commitment to keep the pool open through December so that the boys and girls swim teams would be able to finish their season. However, any decision to close the pool after that would make it necessary for the modified swim team to find a new facility for practice.