LANCASTER – With signs such as “Students say stay cool, don’t close the pool” and “New Stadium = closed pool?” Antelope Valley College students protested the possible closure of the campus pool Monday evening during the Board of Trustees meeting.
In early March, Coach Jackie Lott received an email stating that the pool would be closed after the Spring semester due to needed renovations costing approximately $800,000. According to the email, funding for the project was unavailable because of budget cuts.
“We’ve been told several things. It’s not going to be closed, it’s only going to be closed for certain classes, it is going to be closed,” Lott said. “So the students wanted to show up to the meeting…to voice their concerns because everybody kind of feels like we’re getting different answers. We’re getting different stories and they don’t want to lose their facility.”
Sherrell Comfort spoke on behalf of the students Monday during open forum.
“The pool is a vital component of the school curriculum,” Comfort said. “The pool renovation amount is hard to believe and we appeal to you to re-examine the breakdown of the cost.”
The pool provides an environment for people with disabilities to exercise and offers an immeasurable amount of stress relief for students, she added.
“It just seems with all the new projects on campus – they’re building the stadium, they’re building the new sports complex – it just seems like they keep building things…” said DaVitta Patterson, a student in the beginning swim class. “But [they’re] not focusing on things that are actually their bread and butter, such as the swim classes or a yoga class that students actually fill up within the first couple weeks of registration.”
Jennifer Cohill said she wanted to pursue a minor of athletics, specifically swimming.
“It’s kind of unfair that they’re closing the pool to all these swimmers or potential swimmers,” Cohill said.
More than 400 spots would be affected, she added and “that’s a big chunk of the school’s students there.”
Like Patterson, Cina Irizarry takes swimming classes at the college.
“Water aerobics strengthens me,” Irizarry said. “It gives me inner strength, emotional strength, and it makes me happy.”
Jary Gonzalez said he doesn’t want the pool to close because he loves swimming, and it also makes him happy.
“It’s a free world for me,” he said.
History professor Matthew Jaffe and Coach Lott showed up to the Board of Trustees meeting to support the students.
Jaffe said he hoped with faculty support, the board would see it wasn’t just a group of disgruntled students and take the matter seriously.
“This is important. We’re here to serve the students first,” he said.
The board makes the ultimate decision on closing down the pool, Jaffe said, and if students speak, the board usually listens.
A similar situation happened recently where officials were not going to allow dance classes to be held in the new theater, Lott said.
“The dance students in solidarity went to a board meeting, and we just feel like we need to do the same thing to make them aware of how many people will be involved in closing the pool,” she said.
The board decided to reverse the decision in the dance students’ case, and Lott said she is hoping for the same thing for the pool closure.
To raise awareness of the issue, students started a petition to keep the pool open and stated their case on the AVC Facebook page. Comfort gave the college board the petition Monday evening, which had more than 400 signatures on it.
Board president Betty Wienke gave a decision regarding the pool closure during the board meeting.
“With the suggestion of administration, we will continue to have classes in the fall, and further review the conditions of the pool during that semester,” Wienke said.
The board is in a difficult position because they have to make big cuts, she said.
“Every place we look, there are students that are extremely passionate about that area,” Wienke said.
Cuts will be made down the road to keep the doors of AVC open, which means there is no guarantee the pool won’t be closed at some point, she said.
For now, however, Wienke said the schedule of classes for the fall will continue as planned.