School upgrades could include replacing swimming pool

The Grant Union High swimming pool was the jewel of Del Paso Heights when it was built in 1934 by Works Progress Administration labor as part of the New Deal. It cost $7,324, according to UC Berkeley research.

In its heyday, the Olympic-size pool hosted community events, physical education classes and public swimming. In the ’40s and ’50s, the Grant swim team dominated the Sac-Joaquin sectionals. It all ended about five years ago, when the Sacramento County Health Department closed the pool, said Craig Murray, Twin Rivers Unified School District’s executive director of secondary education and Grant’s former principal.

Next summer, things could be different. The Twin Rivers Unified school board agreed last week to spend $4.2 million to replace the pool as part of a $25 million plan to upgrade district facilities.

The district this summer will install new heating and air-conditioning units at Grant Union High and Harmon Johnson Middle School. Every high school will get fresh paint, and all the district’s schools will get new carpet, ceiling tiles, benches and water fountains, as well as new rubber floors in their cafeterias.

Next school year, the district will spend $12.6 million to replace the Grant pool, repair the Rio Linda pool and make repairs to asphalt, tennis courts, roofs and restrooms at all schools. Next summer, Twin Rivers officials plan to spend $1.8 million to install security and fire alarms throughout the district, while completing paving and roof work.

District officials want to “create conditions for employees to do great work for kids,” said Superintendent Steve Martinez. These upgrades are just the beginning, he said. Staff have estimated it will cost $200 million to make all the improvements needed.

Martinez, who has been superintendent for just one year, called the lack of an operating swimming pool at Grant “a huge inequity to those kids.” The district’s three other traditional high schools – Foothill, Highlands and Rio Linda – all have operating pools.

One of the casualties of the broken pool is the Pacer swim team, which now travels three miles to Rio Linda High School to practice. The Grant swimmers must wait for the Knights to finish their practice before they get a turn. The Grant team – disbanded for years – had just been restarted and had finished its first season when the pool was closed down.

Grant parents and students have complained for years about the broken pool and other maintenance issues at the school. Community activist Debra Cummings has spoken at community meetings, school board meetings and even passed out buttons asking the pool be repaired.

The Grant High graduate grew up swimming in the pool. She said the pool is urgently needed because there is no teen center and no activities for teenagers in the neighborhood.

“It’s long, long overdue,” she said. “I’m really upset it took this long.”

She recalls the Grant pool as a place where the community congregated, where free lunches were served to children in the summer and where teens could find lifeguard jobs.

“That was the community – Grant pool,” she said. “Our babies have suffered. We don’t have anywhere for our kids to hang out.”

Murray said district officials would “love” to open the pool up to the community if an agreement can be made with the parks department.

“We’re really excited about moving forward with this,” Martinez said. “It is going to be great for our kids.”

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