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Grand Island High School Pool Is A Necessity

Your comments are welcome, please send your email to:
Teddy Linenfelser or Jodi Robinson.

We have received many comments from readers. They are listed with the newest postings at the top.

   The Grand Island High School pool has changed so many children's, teens' and adults' lives for the better. Closing the pool would cause nothing but negativity and loss for future swimmers, employees, coaches and students. After spending six years in and around the Grand Island pool I know from experience all the things that you would be depriving of future potential athletes and children.
   In September of 1998 my parents brought me to the Grand Island pool to try out for the Grand Island Swim Club (GISC). At the time I was not sure I even wanted to swim, but I had previously played soccer and took karate classes for several years and knew neither of the two sports was for me. After nine years of swimming, I can honestly say that I would not be the person I am today if swimming hadnít been in my life for so long. Swimming, the pool, my teammates and the coaches shaped me into the successful, dedicated, strong person I am today. Without the Grand Island pool to help teach me who I am I would not be in the positive, wonderful, happy world I live in today. Closing the pool will take important life lessons away from striving individuals in the future.
   For some children the pool is just as important as going to school. The lessons taught by coaches and teammates have always applied to my everyday life. Even now, when I have graduated college and finished swimming for Buffalo State College, I still use the things Iíve learned every day. I learned what commitment, dedication, hard work, and team work is, and how to apply these skills into everything I do. I learned what it means to think positive, to visualize and to set goals and how they can apply to life and the people that surround me - and I know many others have learned the same.
Ashley Remmes

   The Grand Island High School Pool is not just a place for competitive swimmers to train and compete. Although a former member of the Grand Island Swim Club and high school swim team, those are the memories that I hold closest. But, I also can remember leaving the pool after practice on summer mornings and watching young children wait with their parents for Ďlearn to swimí lessons or older populations jump in for their low-impact exercise. The pool was alive with people of all ages for the majority of the day, learning water safety and building fitness. It is an extremely invaluable resource, and as the only public pool on Grand Island, its closure during the summer months would have a drastic impact on hundreds of our residents.
   The School Board must find ways to cut costs, and certainly the education of Grand Islandís children is of highest priority. As a concerned resident and former swimmer, however, I ask that they re-examine the necessity of the pool, and find a place in the budget for it to remain open. Our community is in the wake of difficult economic times. Each of us has things that are being threatened by budget cuts Ė things that are significant on a personal and community level. Working together to meet common ground and make appropriate sacrifices and contributions will continue to keep our students, athletes, and neighbors successful, safe and healthy.
Gretchen Kiehl

    I am taking the time to write to you in regards to the recent budget cuts proposed by the Board of Education, more specifically that of the high school pool. As many people have already expressed to you, this is a very bad, not completely thought out, dangerous decision. Please allow me to give you a little background of myself so that you can better understand why I feel as strongly as I do about this negative decision made by the Board.
    My name is Adam Salemi and I had lived on Grand Island between the years of 1993-2009. I attended both Huth Road Elementary and Grand Island Senior High School where I graduated in 2005. While on Grand Island I participated in Little League Baseball as well many different music programs. My music history on Grand Island goes all the way back to the 3rd, 4th and 5th Grade Choir, and Select Choir at Huth Road. While attending the high school I was a member of Freshmen Choir, Madrigals, Vocal Jazz, Menís Choir, Concert Choir, All-County (vocal), independent and group voice lessons, as well as the productions of South Pacific and Guys & Dolls. In addition to not only being a participant of the choirs, I also held the office of Vice President and President of several of them.
    As busy as I was during my childhood there was no activity that I enjoyed, nor learned more from then that of Swimming and Diving. I started as part of the Grand Island Swim Club, the Piranhas in 3rd grade and still consider myself a member of that organization at heart. Being a member of this organization has forever changed my life for the better, I will expand on this statement later in my letter. Once in high school I was able join the Vikings Varsity Swimming and Diving team. Throughout my 4 years of high school swimming I obtained 6 school records. I was a member of the ONLY 2 teams in Menís Swimming and Diving history to win both Division and League Championship Titles (2001-2002, 2004-2005). I was also a New York State qualifier and a member of the All-American Academic Team in 2005. After high school I moved on and attended Canisius College where I received an Academic scholarship, Music scholarship, as well as a significant Swimming and Diving scholarship. After 4 years at Canisius College was over I had obtained 1 school record. I was a Top Ten Finals qualifier in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference every year. I had qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference 3 of 4 years, was a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Council 2 of 4 years, and held the title of Captain my final season. Looking back at the brief but extensive history Iíve just given you, you might draw the conclusion that Iím a little biased towards keeping the pool open all 12 months of the year. And your damn right I am.
    I grew up in the high school pool along with many others. It was a source of happiness and sadness, pain and pleasure, excitement and disappointment, entertainment, social and communication skill building, and learning. That pool and the people involved in and around it have shaped me into the individual I am today. Being a member of the GISC Piranhas allowed me to travel to Florida and British Columbia, Canada to train with Olympic coaches in state of the art facilities in order to better my skills. I was able to learn life lessons as well as the importance of friendship. To this day I communicate with several members of the same team I started with in the 3rd grade on a weekly basis. Phil Ciraolo taught me the importance of Pride, Poise and Commitment, all valuable lessons in the pool which I am able to apply in the ďrealĒ world today and in the future. If it wasnít for a swimming and diving scholarship I would have never been able to afford to go to Canisius College. I am not the first, nor the last that will be able to put him/herself through college thanks to being a part of the swimming and diving team here on Grand Island.
    I understand that memories and friendships arenít enough to keep the pool open in this time of fiscal crisis. But closing the pool isnít the answer to closing your budget. The high school swim teams are not the only ones that use that facility. The scuba programs, learn to swim, lifeguard training, and club swimming all use that facility throughout the summer months. If there was a public pool on Grand Island that can be used while the high school pool is closed that would be a different story completely. But there isnít! And many other townships have that option. Grand Island isnít one of them. We have one pool to serve an entire island. Another reason that you shouldnít close the facility that is often overlooked is the young islanders who learn to keep their heads above water there. You live on an island! Donít you think you would want somewhere to be open where young ones can go and learn to swim? Not to mention the life saving skills that are taught during lifeguard training and certification courses. You would be taking away from more than just the town; you would potentially be preventing someone from saving their life or anotherís.
    Closing the pool during the summer would have a direct impact on the success or more important the failure of the menís and womenís Vikings swim teams. Many of the same students that are members of the Vikings are also members of the club team that practices during the summer months. Ask any real swimmer, they will tell you that itís those summer months that are some of the most important in their development. Iíd like to fill you in on a small piece of information. If you look at the Vikings Menís Swimming Record board in the high school you will see that with the exception of 1 record, the rest have been broken and set within the past 10 years. If you look at the names, the majority of them were members of the GISC Piranhas. If you take that a step further and look at the state qualifiers, over the past 10-11 years at least one, sometimes more than one athlete have gone to represent Grand Island High School at the State Championship Level. The grand majority of them were also Piranhas. The same group of athletes that score points and represent your school district are about to lose their facility. So if in your mind you are saying that ďOh itís just the club team that wonít be able to practice over the summerĒ, think again!
    I could sit here and tell you every reason why youíre making the wrong decision by voting to close the pool but lets me honest; you already know itís the wrong choice. There has to be another option. I struggle to believe that closing the pool will save the district enough money to justify putting a lock on the doors. Please entertain the thought of allowing us as current or former members of the community to raise the funds necessary to allow our children to experience the same joys in life as we did. We had somewhere to bury our heads and swim. While youíre in the pool nothing else matters accept whatís right in front of you. You canít use your cell phone, you canít do your homework, more importantly you canít be out doing something that youíre not supposed too such as drugs or alcohol if you are partaking in such an activity. Please reconsider closing the pool and explore other alternatives.
Adam P. Salemi
Grand Island High School Swimming & Diving: 2001-2005
Canisius College Swimming & Diving: 2005-2009
GI Piranhas: 1995-Current

    The Grand Island pool should remain open.
The Board of Education plans to vote on a budget proposal on April 4 that includes closing the pool mid-March through mid-August. Superintendent Robert Christmann believes this will save money. It may save money, but it ruins a way of life. Grand Island is a swimming community. We live on an island. Water safety and skills should be a priority. The 1,020 petition signatures presented at the March 28 board meeting proved that. The pool must remain open mid-June through August. Hundreds of residents, ranging from infants through elderly, would suffer from no community swim lessons, no open swim and loss of jobs. Summer camps and the YMCA would no longer benefit. The Grand Island Swim Club would not be able to train. The team must train to remain competitive.
    Since 2000, more than 25 athletes swam in college. Nine did go on athletic scholarships. They returned during summers to train. Disable the pool and you disable studentsí futures. The pool costs approximately $7,500 to operate monthly, according to the board. More than 70 percent accounts for maintenance payroll. The board should trim costs Ė not programs. It would take merely $15,000 to keep the pool open mid-June through August. Thatís equivalent to 40 percent of college tuition for one year at my alma mater. Thatís a potential athletic scholarship. This is the only pool on Grand Island. All residents have the ability to use it. It should be considered a community asset. The pool should remain open.
Emily L. Ciraolo

   When it was brought to my attention that the school board was considering closing the Grand Island Senior High School pool I was concerned that we have lost sight of the best interests of the community.
As a graduate of Grand Island Senior High School in 2008, I have had the pleasure of representing my school and community as a member of the varsity high school swim team for five years and the Grand Island Swim Club for seven years. The opportunity to be a part of the excellent swim program at Grand Island has shaped me into who I am today. Be it a dedicated work ethic, the sense of community or the pride in my team and school, I often draw on these experiences to help me in academics at SUNY Geneseo, athletics as a member of SUNY Geneseoís Division III Varsity team and in my professional life. The facility gives members of the Grand Island community the opportunity to train with one of Grand Islands teams at a convenient location less than ten minutes from their homes.
   The pool is invaluable to other member of the Grand Island Community. Besides first learning how to swim in the pool when I was younger, in my high school years I taught swim lessons with Grand Islandís Recreation Department. In my time as a lifeguard and swim instructor I saw many children who began the program with no swimming ability develop safe and proper swimming skills that would benefit them for the rest of their lives. Many of the kids I taught found a lasting passion for the sport and use the newly renovated facility as members of Grand Islandís swim teams.
   I understand the economic stress we are under but quite simply most parents canít afford to take the kids elsewhere due to the lack of time, transportation or money. To take away the convenience of a pool facility on Grand Island prevents future generations of Grand Island from learning proper water safety skills or becoming a part of the tradition of excellence Grand Islandís swim teams have enjoyed. I firmly believe it is in the best interests of our community to find other ways to meet our deficits. For a facility that was recently updated it would better serve our current and future Islanders to use these facilities to enhance the quality of the community experience here on Grand Island.
Sincerely, Joshua Kaplan
Grand Island Alum 2008

Over A Thousand Signatures Collected
GRAND ISLAND, NY, March 30, 2011 Ė Over a thousand signatures of residents opposed to closing the GI high school pool were presented to the Board of Education and Mr. Robert Christmann at Monday nightís school board meeting. The petition signing comes as a response to the proposed budget cuts.
    Parents and students who belong to the swimming community on this island rallied together and in a very short time Ė one weekend Ė collected 1012 signatures from its residents. Not surprising was the ease in which we gathered these signatures. The residents of our community were very vocal in their support to keep the pool open.
    The boardís response was that they had already decided to leave the pool open for part of the year. It is our understanding that the original statement of closing the pool was unlawful according to the NYS curriculum requirements in regard to physical education. Again, our understanding is that aquatics are a necessary part of the overall PE program. Therefore, the petitions were meant to go beyond that and consider the pool as a place for community involvement.
    We realize the pool as part of its maintenance plan must as always be closed for a period of time. It is the lack of pool time that would take away from the community that we are addressing. A point that we failed to make is that with all the budget issues in the news recently, Grand Island was the only school that proposed pool closing of any kind. Why is that? As stated repeatedly at the meeting we are in a unique situation. We are the only school district in our town; therefore until our town builds a community pool, the high school pool is all we have.
    Closing the pool especially during summer months would be devastating to our residents. To repeat what many others have stated before; we are a community surrounded by water, many people have swimming pools in their yards, there is even a tremendous increase in small bodies of water incorporated in landscape design. Without the pool many will not receive swimming, and water safety instruction. The pool is used by the town, summer camp programs, small groups, senior citizens and numerous other individuals.
    We realize our community along with countless others are faced with a seemingly daunting financial crisis in its Educational system. There is no question that we are in trouble. The real question is whether these hurdles can be overcome without sacrificing the safety of our community and its residents.
GI Swimming Community

    There are a few points I want to bring to your attention regarding cutting to the funding to keep the pool operational. First, swimming is one of the few sports offered that does not require a whole lot of athleticism. Some kids swam with dreams of going to the Olympics, and others simply wanted to lose weight. From my experience, most of the swimmers did not partake in any other sports activities. Closing the pool will be detrimental to the kids who are not athletic enough to participate in other sports.
    Another thing you have to consider is that swimming puts Grand Island on the map. Almost every year there are swimmers representing Grand Island at the state level. This is due to the competitors who swim year round, and for decades there have been a sizeable handful of swimmers who put that type of dedication in every single year. There are no other sports in the Grand Island system that can boast such achievement.
    A few years back I assisted with swimming lessons for infants and young children. I was shocked by the number of people who showed up each week. Swimmers aside, there are hundreds of people who learned how to swim in the Grand Island pool. Taking away the only means for community swimming instruction on an island seems to be the biggest oversight yet. We live on an island, kids need to know how to swim.
    Cuts need to be made. Wherever you decide to make these cuts you can be sure to hear some backlash. Here is my problem; Rather than cutting something small from the majority, you are trying to cut everything from a minority. Phil Ciraolo has put in years of dedication disciplining and training young men and women. He deserves an award and you're effectively telling him to take a hike. Rob Collard has given me and fellow teammates countless words of wisdom that I remember to this day and you're effectively telling him it's not enough. I participated in four sports when I attended Grand Island, and I was never asked once to help with fundraising. Why is that? Before you cut programs that the island needs, programs that make the island what it is today, I urge you to make smaller cuts across the board.
Jordan Stickl

    Closing the pool as a cost saving measure makes no sense whatsoever. The pool is not used by the school district alone. It is used for swim clubs, after school exercise programs, family swim. More often than not it is open from 5:30 a.m. to 7 or 8 p.m. That is not a wasted expense, that is a community activity. A HEALTHY community activity. It is that much more time children are involved in healthy activities than giving them free time to get into trouble. We live on an Island! Some children do not have the convenience of a pool, they canít learn to swim in the river! They depend on the swim program at the school level. Here are some swim facts.
    Swimming is one of the most popular recreational sports that can be enjoyed by all ages. The ability to swim enables people to participate in a wide variety of water sports such as snorkeling, water skiing, jet skiing, wind surfing, sailing, boating, fishing, rowing, and canoeing, without the fear of getting into trouble, and reduces the risk of drowning. We live on an island where these sports dominate the summer months. Fear of water, particularly if a person suddenly gets out of their depth, prevents a lot of people going into a swimming pool or enjoying beach holidays.
    Water is a very dangerous place for non swimmers. Water-related fatalities are the third leading cause of accidental death in the US. The risk of drowning is 2.5 deaths per 100,000 in USA. Babies are taught to swim at a very young age in some countries; this enables them to learn to swim without fear of the water.    Many experts believe that swimming is the ideal all-round exercise. People of all ages and levels of fitness can take part. The water supports the body so there is little stress or impact on tendons, ligaments, and joints. This does not strengthen bones, but it does make swimming safer than land-based activities for those whose bones are weakened by osteoporosis. It also makes swimming especially suitable for those who suffer from knee or back problems, or who are slightly overweight. Swimming can also be helpful for people with asthma or bronchitis.
   Swimming is a sport that attracts participants of all ages although it is largely a young sport. Competitions are organized by clubs, schools, and national associations. Swimming programs are helpful for both the mentally and the physically handicapped as they weigh less in water, and this makes it easier for them to move their muscles, enabling them to improve muscle tone and co-ordination of movement. Pregnant women can swim during their pregnancy while many other sports are not suitable. Swimming is also useful in rehabilitation of injured athletes. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis can improve their aerobic capacity by swimming in warm water. Swimming is the sport that is least likely to precipitate an asthmatic attack, and the fitter they are the fewer attacks they have; swimming improves their breathing. People suffering from attention disorders excel in the pool, it gives them something to concentrate and focus on while enjoying the freedom of movement they require. It helps to train their mind as well as their body.
   Water aerobics is becoming a popular method of keeping fit, with less potential for injury than high impact aerobics. Running in the water is a useful method for athletes to keep fit, if they are injured and unable to cope with full weight-bearing on hard surfaces. Hydrotherapy is also an effective rehabilitation after injury. Swimming is thus a sport that can be enjoyed by many different groups. Competitive swimming is a high-intensity training and performance sport. During the school year swimming training is divided into two sessions: the first session is in the early morning before school and the second session after school. The competitive swimmer usually does an average of 12?000-18?000 metres per day.
Judy Link

   I have been a swim instructor on Grand Island since 1964, when I started teaching with Becky Goodwin. We both believed that because we are surrounded by water, all residents should know how to swim. All 3 of my boys took swim lessons with the Recreation Dept., lifeguard classes from Adult Education, and became lifeguards at several places on GI. Two of my boys participated in the Piranhas Swim Club. Now my granddaughter has become a lifeguard and assistant swim instructor, and swims on the high school swim team, all after taking swim lessons at the Grand Island High School Pool.
   I am still teaching swim lessons and lifeguard training on Grand Island for Grand Island Community Education and summers for Grand Island Recreation Department. Because the town does not have a town pool, where can all the residents go to learn to swim, swim for health, go to Family swims, join swim clubs, learn scuba diving, etc.?
   After growing up on Grand Island, I remember sneaking down to the river as a child and getting caught in the current. Because my parents took me to swim lessons off Island, I was able to save myself. There was no place on the Island to take swim lessons except the Sandy Beach Property Owners beach. Becky Goodwin did some teaching there in the summers. But we need year round access to the pool. I am sure there are other ways to cut the budget. The pool is a great necessity for all Grand Island residents.
Pat Kostenbauder

   The Grand Island HS pool holds a very special place in my heart. Itís where it all began for me. As soon as I was able to walk I was taking swim lessons with Pat. Soon after, when I was six, I joined the Grand Island Swim Club. I was a member of the Piranhas for twelve years. I practiced six days a week at this pool. I trained hard and then I had my first swim meet. I will never forget it! I swam 25yd. backstroke and won 3rd place. I got my first ribbon! It was white. I couldnít have been more proud. I still have this ribbon only now itís yellow. I still cherish it.
   Once I reached 9th grade I swam on the Varsity Swim Team. The stands were always packed for every one of our swim meets. How exciting it was to have so many people cheering for us. I couldnít really hear much of what anyone was yelling with my head under the water but I could always hear my coach whistling and my Dad yelling, ďAtta boy AnnĒ. Being a part of the high school swim team is a very special time for me. Coming from a Catholic grade school I didnít know many people, but being part of the swim team, I felt like I was part of a family. It didnít matter what went on in the halls of high school, as soon as you step into the pool you were all a big family. At a time when I could have been nervous or scared I was full of confidence.
   During my high school physical education swim classes, I was always asked to demonstrate. I remember feeling very special and proud of myself. I also completed my lifeguard training classes here in the pool and continue to this day to recertify my lifeguarding here in this pool. When I look back on my high school career, the only thing that stands out is my swim team, my family. The biggest influences in my life besides my parents were my swim coaches. They made me who I am.
   Being part of the swim team led me to college to become a physical education teacher. Of course, I swam throughout my four years of college as well.
   Since swimming has been such a big influence in my life, I wanted to teach others how to swim. I now spend most of my time here at the Grand Island HS pool teaching middle school kids how to swim properly in their PE classes. I love to see their faces looking proudly up at me when they learn how to do a stroke properly. I also lifeguard for the middle school and high school PE swim classes.
   I also help coach the St. Stephenís School swim team which practices and holds their meets at this pool. All four of my children are part of this swim team and it is a very important part of their lives. This has led to my daughter becoming a part of the Grand Island Swim Club, which is very special to me because she has the same coach that I had. I have come full circle in this pool. I hope that other kids get to experience some of the things that I have right here in this pool and would hate to see it close. Please donít close our pool, it means so much to so many.
Ann (Walker) Strott

   As residents of Grand Island for the past six years, we have always taken great pride in saying, ďWe are Grand Island Residents, ď and in proclaiming proudly that our children attend Grand Island Schools and were always happy with what the school district had to offer our children. It is the very reason why we chose to make our home on Grand Island; and as a Grand Island High School graduate, the very reason why I decided to move back to Grand Island and to raise my family here.
   This proud feeling has now taken a downward spiral with the recent proposed cuts in the school budget including but not limited to the closing of the GI High School pool. Our ten-year old daughter is a member of the Grand Island Swim Club and swims at the pool four times per week; a commitment that is year round. Not only does she and her teammates practice at the Grand Island High School pool, they participate in several swim meets throughout the season which also takes place at ďherĒ pool, a term our daughter uses all the time. Anyone who has their child involved with a team sport, knows of the commitment both the family and the child are involved in; and it is not just about the sport itself and what that teaches a child, it is about learning to be part of the team, being a team player, patience, persistence, and long lasting friendships to just name a few. Whether you are football parents, hockey parents, soccer parents, you know the joy your child's sport brings to them as well as to you and your families. Swimmers and their parents and families are no different.
   Don't take the pool away from these kids or from the community of Grand Island. Not only will these kids suffer but also the entire community of Grand Island and all who use the pool will suffer as well.
Jan and Jim Mitchell

   My husband and I have lived and worked on Grand Island our entire lives. Most of us live here and have stayed here because we are drawn to the water. We boat, swim, water ski, jet ski, scuba dive, fish, or just sit by the water. In 1970 I learned how to swim (I was 4 years old) at the GI pool with Pat. As a young teenager, I went on to get my lifeguard certification and used what I learned to pull someone out of the river while lifeguarding at Sandy Beach. My husband took his scuba diving certification in that very pool. We both have great memories of family swim days growing up here on Grand Island. How do you put a price tag on that? My daughter now is a part of the Grand Island Swim Club. She attends practices three times a week and attends many swim meets at this pool. Those serious about swimming know that the season never ends. That this sport is a personal commitment to year round training and work outs. Swimming also teaches kids about commitment and discipline which seems to be something that is starting to lack in our society. To those of you who have children or grand children in other sports; the only difference between us, is that I spend every waking moment at the pool instead of Veterans Park. Keep in mind, if these cuts are allowed, your sports program might be next on the chopping block. This pool has been a big part of our lives whether we have used it or not. These cuts should not be allowed to happen. I have always been proud to be from Grand Island and I sure would like to stay that way.
Mary and Jack West
Owners - Jackson Music Centre, Inc.

   I just read about a possible school district cut to save money. The cut I am referring to is shutting the high school pool to all except the swim teams during their season.
   I feel this move could be a fatal mistake. I have been involved with water safety and competitive swimming for many years and I strongly believe that when you live on an island with many creeks and backyard pools, learning to swim to save your life might be tops on the educational list.
   Many communities in western New York have town run, community pools. These pools, are the sites of learn to swim programs. Grand Island is not so fortunate. The parents on Grand Island either have to teach their own children to swim or take advantage of the town programs conducted at the high school pool. The swim instructors hired by the town have probably, indirectly, saved the lives of hundreds of young children over the years by "water proofing" them.
   Until Grand Island can generate a town pool of its own, keep the high school facility going and teach the next generation to swim.
Peter Sloan - Retired Art Teacher/Swim Coach

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