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Out of the pool, kids

City's Outdoor swimming pools close, some say too soon

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  Less than two months after Mayor Mitch Landrieu celebrated its reopening with a jubilant splash, the pool at the Lyons Center is now closed for the summer, along with all the other outdoor pools in the city.

  The pools officially closed July 29. Meanwhile, schools are gradually reopening around the city: the ReNEW and New Orleans College Prep systems have already begun; the KIPP system, ENCORE Academy and about a dozen other campuses reopen this week; and the week of Aug. 12 brings the return of the Orleans Parish School Board and Recovery School District direct-run schools, as well as numerous others.

  The city had 13 pools open and staffed this summer, the most since Hurricane Katrina, said Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the mayor.

  "Traditionally, the City sees a lull in pool usage towards the end of the summer as schools begin to go back in session," Gamble wrote in an email. "Experience has shown this is the best practice in order to be effective and efficient with taxpayer dollars."

  The July 29 pool closing was announced at the beginning of the summer, Gamble noted. Meanwhile, two indoor pools — at Joe W. Brown Park and the Treme Center — remain open year-round. New Orleans City Council President Jackie Clarkson, a New Orleans Recreation Development Commission member, said in a statement that the pools were closed because students would not use them as much when they return to school.

  Others, however, feel the closures come too soon. The Treme and Joe Brown pools are out of reach to many Uptown children with limited transportation options, said Babs Johnson, a youth advocate and former member of the advisory panel that created the NORD Commission.

  Given the millions spent to renovate the pools, keeping them open until the end of the summer would have been a good use of NOLA for Life money, Johnson said.

  "No one can convince me that we are serious about crime until we have a thriving recreation department that serves our families, especially those most vulnerable/at risk, in a meaningful way," Johnson said.

  City Councilwoman Stacy Head said she is concerned that the decision to close the pools shows a lack of independence between the relatively new commission and the mayor's office.

  "I believe that keeping the pools open one more week and/or through the weekends until Labor Day would be an appropriate use of NORDC funds," Head said. "But it is the commission's ultimate decision. I plan to let the chairman know of my position for next years' planning." — Robert Morris | Uptown Messenger

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