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Pool at Northampton’s JFK Middle School to stay open on weekends

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
A morning water aerobics class at the JFK Middle School pool in 2007. School budget cuts now call for closing the pool on weekends.

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO A morning water aerobics class at the JFK Middle School pool in 2007. School budget cuts now call for closing the pool on weekends. Purchase photo reprints »

The pool, which is open to the community after school hours at JFK and on weekends, was slated to close on Saturdays and Sundays beginning this fall due to a $40,000 reduction in school custodial services.

A $2.5 million property tax override that city voters approved in June staved off those cuts. In addition, the $15,000 annual cost of a weekend custodian at JFK will be borne by the city’s central services department from here on out.

City Recreation Director Ann-Marie Moggio said annual membership fees for the Aquatic and Family Center will be going up $10 in September to help cover those costs, from $115 to $125 annually for adult city residents, and from $155 to $165 for non-residents. Discounts are given to children and seniors.

There will be no rise in one-time fees of $4 for adult residents and $5 for non-residents.

Aquatic center fees were last raised in 2007, when annual memberships rose by $5, Moggio said.

The Recreation Department, which runs the aquatic center, also hopes to plan more fee-generating events for the pool, such as birthday parties, on the weekends.

The Aquatic and Family Center at JFK was part of a larger renovation project at the middle school in 1996 that included installation a six-lane swimming pool. The $14.9 million project was funded by a debt-exclusion override voters approved in 1994, with the understanding that the pool would be open to the community.

The Recreation Department reported 2,500 weekend uses (some are for group events) of the JFK pool and 4,495 on weekdays for the first five months of 2013, the latest figures available.

City school Business Manager Mark McLaughlin said school officials are pleased about the agreement to move the costs of a weekend custodian for the pool at JFK to the city’s side of the ledger.

“That cost really should never have been on the school side,” he said. “This eliminates some of the angst between the Recreation and the School Department by having it now placed where it should be.”

Florence resident Jen Grow was excited to learn from a reporter that weekend pool hours will continue at JFK. Her three children, aged 9, 7 and 4, are all regulars at the aquatic center.

“They’ve all taken swimming lessons there, they’ve had their birthday parties there. It’s just a great program,” she said.

Grow, who works as an editor at Williams College, said she and her husband, John Calkins, frequently swim at the pool while their children are taking swimming lessons. “It’s been a huge part of our Saturday mornings for years,” she said.

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