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The Boston Herald
The Lowell High School project proposed for the city's downtown is at risk of losing state funding because city officials are pushing to keep the school pool.
City leaders are meeting with the Massachusetts School Building Authority tomorrow in Boston to negotiate keeping the pool as part of the $352.2 million renovation and expansion of the existing high school, but they face an uphill battle.
The MSBA has previously said pools in school building projects can't be reimbursed under state regulations.
But city and school leaders say the pool is a core part of students' curriculum and a resource for community groups such as the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell.
"It's been a critical part of the curriculum," said Mayor William Samaras, a former high school principal. "There are a lot of disadvantaged children that come into Lowell. It is made up of many economic groups. There are many canals and rivers in Lowell. We've seen in the past kids have drowned. That has been part of our thoughts.
"We have a swim team and many organizations that use it in the summer. It is an educational tool," Samaras added. "We don't regard it as a luxury for the swim team. Only 36 high schools have pools in the state."
It is another roadblock for the project that has bedeviled the city for more than two years. The city was fiercely divided over whether the high school should stay downtown in the 1920s-era building or move to a new site at Cawley Stadium until a ballot question in November showed overwhelming support for the downtown option. The city shelved its plans for the Cawley site with the state. A lawyer for several dentists whose medical office building would be taken by eminent domain for the downtown project has also threatened to sue.
But some officials say the pool is not worth jeopardizing funding for the entire project.
"I do know a lot of kids who have benefited from the pool but a lot of kids don't like it," said Gerard Nutter of the Lowell School Committee. "If there is a way to keep the pool without costing the city too much money, OK, but if not, we eliminate it."
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