Swim programs at eight Toronto elementary schools and 12 high schools are in jeopardy, after the Toronto District School Board miscalculated the number of aquatic instructors it would need this fall.
Trustees approved a staffing proposal in March to reduce the number of instructors to 80 from 93, because a number of pools will require maintenance and, therefore, not be in use. Trustees were told swim programs at other schools would not be affected.
However, some schools are learning this week that they will lose their full-time aquatics instructors and instead share them with other schools, because the TDSB did not account for the limitations in collective agreements around moving staff or misjudged the status of pool maintenance projects.
That means students who received regular swimming instruction at the affected schools will get it every other week or in specific blocks during the academic year.
“We’re losing a 25-plus-year educator at our school, a pillar of the community, because of an error of understanding in how the accounting will work,” said Geoff Loughton, a teacher at Brown Junior Public School.
In a letter to the TDSB, the staff at Brown wrote this week that they were “left reeling” after learning that they will lose their two full-time aquatics instructors, one of whom has been at the school for nearly 30 years. The letter was shared with The Globe and Mail.
“Cutting aquatics programming from Brown Junior Public School and … other TDSB schools is short-sighted, miserly and downright wrong,” the staff wrote.
Ryan Bird, a TDSB spokesman, said the decision to share aquatics instructors was made to “avoid any closures and to maintain swim programs at all sites.”
About 26 elementary schools and 39 secondary schools have swim programs.
Of 80 aquatics instructors next fall, 11 will be unassigned to specific schools, said John Weatherup, president of CUPE Local 4400. This means that they will move between the eight elementary and 12 secondary schools.
Mr. Weatherup said the board’s decision “is clearly about reducing their budget, and what it also does is reduce the programming for students.”
In March, trustees voted on school-based staffing decisions for the next academic year. Trustee Shelley Laskin said she and her colleagues were not informed that reducing aquatics instructors would affect swim programs.
“If we are going to close pool programming, it should be a public board decision,” Ms. Laskin said. “We’ve never had a discussions to understand how programming will work.”
Three of the eight elementary schools that are affected, including Brown, are in her ward.
Ms. Laskin said she plans to move a motion at a TDSB committee meeting next week to add staff to school pool programs. However, it is unclear what it would mean to other staffing decisions if the board were to add more aquatics instructors.