- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001

Overcast skies didn't spoil Amil Abdallah's weekend fun at the Banneker Pool yesterday. She and her cousin Marissa Gentry and two girlfriends bellowed out the "Marco Polo" chant — nonstop — while lifeguards watched over them. The frolicking girls were ending summer the way it usually ends in the city where there are no beaches. They laughed and played in the glistening 516,540-gallon swimming pool operated by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation at 2500 Georgia Ave. in Northwest.
The few days before Labor Day generally are a bittersweet time in the District — summer loves come to an end, tarps are pulled out, umbrellas and chairs are soon to be put away and the plug is pulled at the pools, like a giant bathtub being drained.
The last nine of the District's 20 large outdoor pools will close at 7 p.m. tomorrow, not to reopen until Memorial Day — well, it's only eight months away.
"I'm kind of sad because I'm going to miss all my friends here at the pool. But, I guess it's OK, because the pools will reopen. Soon it will be too cold to swim," said Amil, 10, a fifth-grader at Raymond Elementary School in Northwest.
"I've got lots of good memories though," she said. "On the second day of summer, I saw one of my friends from kindergarten — we had lost touch and I was soooo excited to see her. Now, we have exchanged phone numbers."
Jennifer Gardill, 9, shares Amil's sentiments. Decked out her in hot-pink and orange swimsuit, she too will miss swimming every day at Banneker and playing Marco Polo with her sister, she said. Like Amil, she found old friends from years past this summer and had a lot of fun splashing around in the water, she said.
On the other hand, the grating shouts of Marco Polo in the game of water tag have frayed Rebecca Gardill's nerves. She's ready to return to school, she said. It's been fun but. …
"I don't care about the pools closing. I'm looking forward to going back to school and I'm not going to come to the pool on Labor Day either because we might go shopping for school," said the sixth-grader who lives in Northwest. Rebecca, 11, said she has amassed a small fortune while swimming at Banneker. She's found lots of pennies, dimes and quarters at the pool's bottom, she said.
Vene Glascoe, an assistant pool manager at Banneker, expects a large turnout today and tomorrow if the weather cooperates. The past few days have been overcast and iffy, she said while looking out over the grounds from her office at the swimming pool that easily can accommodate 500 people.
During the height of the summer season, more than 100 persons take the plunge at Banneker each day. Camps bring their children there to swim and lots of neighborhood children treat the swimming pool as their second home, Ms. Glascoe said.
"We take a lot of pride in our pool. And, we have worked very hard to maintain it so the children will have someplace that is safe and clean to swim. We have had a very safe summer without any problems," she said smiling.
Ms. Glascoe will miss the incessant chanting of children along with their bubbly laughter, she said.
"You form a bond, especially with the children who come every day. I'll just look forward to seeing them next year.
By noon yesterday, clouds still threatened to drench the District and that's the only reason the Francis Pool at 25th and N streets NW wasn't packed, said pool manager Ericka Jackson, 21.
"Maybe 50 people at a minimum come out when it's overcast and cooler. But, when the sun's out there are probably 200 to 300 people here. On Labor Day it will be busy because the community likes this pool and they're not happy it's closing. The community would like it to stay open longer," Ms. Jackson said.
Like Banneker, camps bring their groups to Francis to cool off in the 50-yard swimming pool, where much of the backdrop is foliage from adjacent Rock Creek Park. The day after Labor Day, the 419,768-gallon pool will be drained. It's an emotional time for everyone at Francis.
"I love this pool so much, I hate it when summer ends," said Lashawn Van Buren, 33, the pool's cashier. "We have good crowds, patrons and staff. This is a nice, clean pool and [West End] is a lovely neighborhood to work in."
She says the beauty of the Francis Pool is that people come from near and far to cool off. People come from Southeast, Virginia and from out of town — especially if they have relatives who live in the area. They come because they've heard great things about the pool.
"As we watch the water drain out of the pool, you think about all the things that happened during that particular summer and you hate to see it end," Ms. Van Buren said.

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