Photo: Pakutaso

Japanese schools losing their pools due to rising maintenance costs and aging facilities

By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

Japanese schools have had their own pools for decades, sometimes built into the very roof to save space. Many Japanese adults probably fondly remember the PE classes they spent swimming with their classmates under the summer sun, laughing and splashing under the strict eye of their teachers.

Unfortunately, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, younger generations may not get to make those same fond memories in the future. Due to the financial and emotional burden of conducting swimming classes on campus, a lot of public schools are choosing to shut down their pools and send their students to a private pools and swimming schools instead.

The number of schools choosing to do so is steadily increasing. In 1996, there were more than 20,000 elementary schools nationwide that had their own pool, but by 2015 that number had decreased by about 25 percent, to just over 15,000. While part of those are schools that closed because of the declining birth rate, it still leaves about 1,000 elementary schools that decided to close just their pools.

That’s partly because many campus pools are quite old and are in dire need of repair. At this time, about 70 percent are over 25 years old and need some major touch-ups, and within the next 15 years a large share of the pools will be over 45 years old, which means they will have to be completely rebuilt. The cost to repair and renovate the pools is extremely high, so many municipalities consider the investment to not be worth the trouble.

Even if the pools are in decent condition, maintaining them racks up a large bill. Unlike other janitorial duties, the maintenance of campus pools is delegated to hired professionals who are not part of school personnel, which can be expensive. And that’s not to mention the cost of the water, the chemicals needed to keep it clean, and the cleaning of the area around the pool, as well.

One elementary school in Sakura City, Chiba, is estimated to save about one million yen every month after switching their classes to a private pool. If all of the city’s 34 schools were to do the same, the school district could probably save an exponential amount of money every year, great sums that could be applied to other more necessary but equally outdated facilities.

Making use of private pools also helps the teachers out immensely. Swimming classes conducted at the pool on campus require the PE teacher to be in charge of the children’s safety in the water, and for someone who is not a trained swimming coach, that is a heavy burden to bear.

Not only that, but school teachers also appreciate having the extra hands in the “classroom”, so to speak, that are present when the children are learning at a private pool or with a professional swimming coach. Overall, not leaving the teachers in charge of swimming classes lessens their stress by a fair amount.

That’s not to say the switches don’t come with challenges. There is a lot of logistic planninginvolved; transporting the students and arranging chaperones is a major concern, especially when classes are large or when they have to travel longer distances. Then there’s the problem of scheduling if multiple schools are using the same facilities, and whether there will be enough facilities for all of the schools plus the local population.

Yet it seems that the plan is in motion across the country. Japanese students, for one, seem to appreciate the change. In a survey conducted by Sakura City, about 98 percent of the students who participated in an off-campus swimming class said they enjoyed the lesson, and 85 percent said their swimming improved. Another benefit to using private pools and swimming schools, which are often indoor pools, is that swimming classes can be conducted throughout the year, instead of just in summer; what kid wouldn’t love a P.E. class spent in the pool, at any time of the year?

Japanese netizens generally seem to be in favor of the idea, as well, though some weren’t exactly on board:

“The cost and the burden on the teachers is pretty high. Maybe it is better to outsource the responsibility.”

“I think it’s a pretty good idea to have swimming classes at private pools instead. But it sounds like the transportation costs would be pretty high in the countryside.”

“They should invest in air conditioning instead of spending money on pools.”

“It might be expensive, but there’s no disadvantage to having them learn. The methods for building pools have improved a lot, so if they just rebuild them it shouldn’t be any problem.”

“It seems to me that the number of kids who are able to swim will decrease, or the number of drowning incidents may increase.”

There are still thousands of schools with their own pools, so many Japanese children might not miss out on the quintessential experience of an on-campus pool day any time soon. However, with the high expenses for schools and a slowly shrinking population to fund them, we might see more and more abandoned campus pools as time goes on.

Source: Livedoor News via My Game News Flash

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Kicking for maximum swimming speed? You might be doing it wrong, Japanese researchers say

-- Japanese town suffers population decline, turns its local elementary school into an aquarium

-- Stingy people rejoice as Japanese restaurants in New York introduce a ban on tipping

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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The same thing happened in the States decades ago. The results are generations of low-income young people mostly in urban areas that can't swim.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Most schools don't maintain the water over winter they cover them up and the water turns all green or they actually empty the pool. Then they have to hire people to fix it / fill it all just before summer... They do the same thing with ponds in parks.... just turn off all the water.... if they actually took care of the pool year round instead of thinking it doesn't need it because no one will use it they would save money.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

why not just cover the pool from autumn until spring and just use it in the summer? It's too cold to hold swimming classes anyway and they'd only need to maintain it for at most 3 months a year

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Our school pool is used for about 3 weeks in summer, even though it is blistering hot from May through September. Also parents must take turns supervising these swimming classes. Maybe if they extended the swimming season and charged locals they could make some cash?

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Always thought the every school pool system here, was an extravagance based on emotive, fanciful reasons rather than any well thought out strategic plan.

Most pools operate only a few weeks a year. Most "swimming" lessons are poorly planned, staffed and the "teachers" have no idea about modern swimming programs that have been implemented in other places over the past decades.

As a qualified swimming teacher in Australia - a long time ago - swimming lessons for the majority of primary students were incorporated into community swim centers, where up to date professionals taught groups of children based on their experiences, abilities and attained levels. An example of a program would be for a school to have a swim fortnight where a swimming center is booked every morning by the school and an innovative program put into place. The kids are bussed to the pool and the total time needed would be 2- 3 hours (with 1 hour of instruction.) With such a system you can have swimming lessons in mid-winter in an indoor center. The quality of intensive swim time / instruction is way above what is offered by the school swim programs here.

And who benefits? The kids get better instruction esp re water safety and as they are in ability groups with professional instructors the learning and enjoyment levels are much higher. The schools can have all their swimming over in a block saving lost time. The community benefits with swim centers and staff being well utilized and paid and local transport benefits. The pressure is taken off teachers who for the majority are not "water professionals". And if implemented in Japan the school savings would be enormous.

But it will take a BIG push to sway many - including parents - to see another way.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

As long as they are getting lessons, it doesn't matter if they are on campus. With a falling number of kids, swimming schools can't be thriving, so it makes sense for them too.

At elementary schools, there can be a huge difference in the quality of sports lessons between teachers, so its good to have dedicated swim coaches give the lessons. As Michael says, parents are on the hook as lifeguards, in my kids' school's case, during the holidays only, so it would be one less thing for the PTA to do. At my kids' school, parents have to book time off work, even though the actual job of supervising is weather dependent and the class will be cancelled if it rains.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It is just a matter of school authorities (Oyajis) and the ministry thinking that

pools are necessary. Schools don't even have heaters and air conditions and

we know the reason was not money or maintenance but rather the thinking that

the oyajis presently running the show hadn't heaters and aircons and survived

why should now have them.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

What maintenance! Seriously, I worked in a few different junior high schools in different cities in the past and for a majority of the year the pools were left untouched, unused and not maintained. As another user stated, they are basically used for 3 weeks in summer and that’s it.

The BOE is always looking for ways how to cut costs. Even with installed air conditioners in every class, I remember in the morning meetings being told by the VP not to use them even though it was a heatwave.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

It is a great experience for the kids to have all of them have fun in the water. Japan built and maintained these pools for decade. Why now is there is no money for the pools to be repaired or rebuilt? Abe diverting money to the military perhaps?

In the US schools open their pools to the public on the weekends. Such a simple idea that could work here as well. Where we live we have a municipal pool but it is often closed for various classes. The schools pools could be opened for recreation during the summer months and or course charge for admission. Some local hotels have pools and do this but cost is very high.

Japanese kids are getting fat and closing down exercise programs is one of the reasons why.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

They hardly teach how to swim now anyway. They expect that kids already go to separate lessons.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

MichaelBukakisSep. 19  08:41 am JST Our school pool is used for about 3 weeks in summer, even though it is blistering hot from May through September. Also parents must take turns supervising these swimming classes. Maybe if they extended the swimming season and charged locals they could make some cash?

I've long wondered this as well. But we all know that everything in Japan follows a strict calendar regardless of circumstances suggesting a more logical schedule. Trains and subways don't turn on the air conditioning until the first day of summer. Rainy season has an official beginning and ending regardless of the actual weather. Most beer gardens close at the end of August regardless of the fact that it's usually unpleasantly hot to be in them June through August and they could all stay open through October. And public pools open late in the season and close early regardless of how warm the weather is.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

If all of the city’s 34 schools were to do the same, the school district could probably save an exponential amount of money every year, great sums that could be applied to other more necessary but equally outdated facilities.

Yeah right. Who here doesn't want to bet that the money isn't going to go to bonuses for city beaurocrats. Don't have to be on a farm to smell the BS.

Time to move to Canada where the authorities think a little more about the welfare of our tiny tots and not just about how much money THEY can save..

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The kids have to learn how to swim though, that is essential.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The third largest economy in the world and the schools can’t afford heating, nor a/c?

And now the swimming pools are the next casualty?

Those Aegis missles have to be paid for though....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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