PHOTO: Master Swimmers Denis Borum, Anna Zelinsky and Holly Hukill (swimming) in the Piney Branch Elementary School pool. Photo by Bill Brown.
BY JACKIE CAMER
When parents and neighbors heard Montgomery County planned to close Piney Branch Elementary School pool, they were upset, urging city and county officials to find a way to keep open the pool once again.
More than 50 residents, including children carrying protest signs, filled the Takoma Park City Council chambers last week Monday April 13.
Miles Hill, 7 commented, “When I was three years old I learned to swim here, please don’t take it away.”
All Piney Branch students have twelve weeks of swimming as part of their physical education classes. Swim teams from local high schools in particular Montgomery Blair practice there. Of all 199 schools in Montgomery County Piney Branch is the only one with its own Olympic sized pool.
Resident Miles Hill speaks to the city council.
Rosy Bell of Washington D.C. commented, “I’m not actually from Maryland but I think you all have one of the best swimming instructors here which is why I bring my 4 year old granddaughter here.”
Montgomery County has not adequately provided funds for the Piney Branch Pool in next fiscal year’s budget.
In 2001, the Piney Brach pool closed due to financial reasons. It re-opened under an arrangement with the Silver Spring YMCA.
In 2007, the pool closed again as the YMCA decided not to renew its contact.
On February 11 2009 with help from Adventist Community Services the the pool reopened. Through the partnership with ACS, the county gave $207,000 grant to manage the pool.
Now there’s a threat the pool will be closed once again.
Resident Pat Loveless commented, “I want to see that pool kept open, it will help the kids stay off the street and avoid doing drugs. This is a real justice issue; they cannot take this pool away from us.”
Piney Branch Elementary School pool. Photo by Bill Brown.
The pool provides for people in the community, especially those who may not have easy access to water safety, exercise and swim lessons
Jane Harmon, an epidemiologist commented, “We help to study heart disease and one of the best ways to prevent it, is exercise, which the pool provides.”
Kawsar Talaat, a physician and faculty member of John Hopkins School of Heath, told the council, “Over 3,000 people drown each year to drowning accidents. The American County Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons to decrease this number.”
Claudia Rodriquez commented, “I’m originally from El Salvador and learned how to swim just two years ago through the Piney Branch Pool. I didn’t want my daughter to turn out like me; she’s been in the pool since she was one.”
Capital improvements are needed at the pool to renovate the facilities to current standards- the estimate of $160,000.
The Takoma Park city council approved a resolution April 13 urging Montgomery County to fund necessary renovations to the public swimming pool at Piney Branch Elementary School and keep the pool open until renovations begin.