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Oak Harbor School District may scrub school swim team
After barely floating by the first round of budget cuts made by the Oak Harbor School Board, the high school swim program once again finds itself sinking fast.
On the board’s agenda Monday, Superintendent Rick Schulte said it might not be feasible to continue the program after reviewing the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District’s offer for pool time next school year.
According to Schulte, the park district has decreased the high school’s time allotment at the pool over the last four years as its own organizations, like the North Whidbey Aquatic Club, became more popular.
In 2007, the park district provided the Oak Harbor High School swim team with at least three or more swim lanes for at least an hour and a half in the afternoons and dry land training on the pool deck. Next year, the park district proposed giving the school just two lanes for an hour and 15 minutes later in the afternoon with no dry land training on the deck.
Additionally, though most league meets are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays, park district officials said the Oak Harbor swim team would need to host its meets in the evenings on either Mondays or Wednesdays.
With about 80 swimmers (40 on each of the boys and girls teams) expected to go out for swimming next year, Schulte said he believes the cramped spaces would be unsafe for students. Though the park district did say more time may be open early Wednesday and Friday mornings and on Saturdays, Schulte said he believed the schedule would be too chaotic.
“It really is a minimum to have three lanes for an hour and a half for safety reasons,” Schulte said. “I know there’s competition for time at the swimming pool, and I’m glad there’s competition because it means that we have a healthy program, but as far as negotiations, we’ve been met with nothing more than ‘take it or leave it’ and that’s just not acceptable.”
Oak Harbor High School Athletic Director Nicki Luper and Principal Dwight Lundstrom echoed Schulte’s points. Though both stressed how difficult it would be to cut the program and how it important it is to the students, they said they were concerned about the limited access.
Craig Carlson, director of North Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, said he’s offering the high school as much time as he can, but he simply can’t afford to give any more. Carlson said with swim lessons, water aerobics classes and 150 aquatic club participants, there’s just too high of demand at the pool.
“Everybody is compromising, that’s part of the problem,” Carlson said. “We’re doing the very best that we can to meet needs, but nobody is getting everything they want.”
“The (parks) board and I see the benefits of the high school swim team, but we are in a limited situation. ... We all have to compromise,” Luper said in an interview earlier this week. “If we want to run a comprehensive program, we need more than two lanes.”
She added, “Do we have enough pool time, the quality time we need, to excel at state? We need to give the kids the foundation to succeed. Isn’t that the goal?”
Carlson said the pool is a “very popular place.” He added, “The public should have some opportunities to swim.”
At the meeting Monday, about a dozen concerned students and parents showed up to hear the discussion.
Oak Harbor High School boys coach Amy Nurvic told the board she believes she can run a successful program with what the pool has offered. She said that some time is better than no time and “it’s a struggle to coordinate everything that needs to be done, but we get it done.”
Parent Steven Hoffmire also urged the board to save the swim team. He said one of the best decisions he made was to allow his developmentally delayed child to swim.
“The option of losing the swim team shouldn’t even be on the table. I don’t know about contracts either, but I know what’s right and what’s wrong,” Hoffmire said.
After hearing from a handful of swim team and aquatic club parents, the board members asked Luper and Carlson to sit down together again and see if a better agreement could be reached. Schulte said the board will need to make its final decision on the future of the swim team by August.
Sports editor Jim Waller contributed to the story.