UPDATE: South Valley Middle School pool will close

The pool at South Valley Middle School is scheduled to be filled this summer.

UPDATE: Council turns down district’s counter offer, SVMS will close

The fate of South Valley Middle School’s pool was looking murky until Monday night, when City Council drowned a newly proposed measure that was seemingly dead on arrival.

Now, the future of a hollow cement rectangle that was once a recreational pool in a low-income neighborhood on the east side of Gilroy isn’t looking too bright. 

“I’m just disappointed. That’s all,” said SVMS Principal Anisha Munshi. “But right now, with the district budget being what it is, I knew this was going to be the district’s final offer…we had across-the-board salary cuts last year, and we still don’t know what’s going to happen next year.”

Following months of talk that have dragged on since October 2011 between the Gilroy Unified School District and City Council, attempts to hammer out a joint agreement that would hold both parties financially responsible for the deteriorating pool at SVMS came to a screeching halt Monday during a special study session at City Hall. 

Council put the kibosh on GUSD’s counter offer, which asks the city to pay a heftier portion of the pool’s much-needed repairs, in addition to shouldering the pool’s operating costs for three years. 

“I’m disheartened by this news,” said Councilwoman Cat Tucker Monday night. “I was hoping that the district would meet us halfway.”

While Councilman Peter Leroe-Muñoz echoed Tucker in that he was also “disheartened” by the news, Leroe-Muñoz dually “recognized the difficulty of the school board’s financial crisis.”

With water that turned so green last summer the deep-end became a cloudy lagoon, the SVMS pool needs $147,000 in one-time repairs, in addition to ongoing operating costs of $140,585.

The original joint funding proposal would have GUSD paying $100,000 in one-time repairs. The city would pay the other $47,000, in addition to $70,000 to temporarily help with operational costs for one summer. City Council cemented this offer April 16 with a 4-3 vote.

GUSD came up with a new proposal during its School Board meeting Thursday, however.

The district will agree to fund $82,000 of the repairs – if the city covers the remaining $65,000 balance and pays the annual $140,585 in operating costs for a minimum of three years.

A second motion unanimously passed Thursday gives District Superintendent Debbie Flores the green light to take “whatever action necessary to demolish the pool in the most cost effective manner,” according to GUSD Administrative Assistant Gina Coffman.

“The public needs to be keenly aware that the school board has few other options remaining to address the drastic reductions to our local schools,” said Board Trustee Jaime Rosso. “And that unpopular cut – such as that of the pool at South Valley Middle School – has to be made because of the inescapable, adverse impacts to funding for Gilroy schools.”

In light of GUSD weathering its fourth year of a severe budget crisis, it’s a bad time for anything to break down.

A possible $3.5 to $8.5 million loss in GUSD’s state funding for the 2012-13 school year has GUSD trustees preoccupied with other painful measures, such as class size increases and furlough days.

The SVMS pool “that has served Gilroy so well for many years” will be shut down unless outside resources can step in, according to Rosso.

“I wish we could keep this valuable resource for our youth open,” he continued. “Regretfully, I believe the school board is left with little choice in this matter. That’s really what it boils down to… we just don’t have the financial resources to continue.”

Flores said the district will begin next week to address the task of closing the pool permanently. She does not know how much it might cost, but has inquired within the district for a possible estimate. 

While Munshi hoped GUSD would be able to work something out with the city, she hasn’t discredited the power of localized fundraising efforts, or the possibility of an outside donor stepping up to the plate.

“It would have to be through some kind of fundraising or donation effort,” she mused. “I know in our community we have some people with big hearts…any kind of help right now would be great.”

-What’s wrong with the pool? The South Valley Middle School Pool costs $140,585 to operate annually. It also needs $146,700 in one-time repairs. This breaks down as follows: 
• Plumbing repairs: $86,700
• New boiler: $24,000
• Mechanized pool cover: $24,000
• VFD pump: $12,000
-Original joint funding proposal: The school district will pay $100,000 of the needed one-time repairs. The city will pay the other $47,000, in addition to $70,000 to help keep the pool operating for one summer. 
-Counter joint funding proposal from GUSD: The school district will fund $82,000 of the needed one-time repairs, if the city covers the remaining $65,000 balance and pays the annual operating cost of $140,585 for the next three years. 
-What happens now? On Monday, City Council put the kibosh on the school district’s counter offer. GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores has been given the green light by the school board to take “whatever action necessary to demolish the pool in the most cost effective manner.”