Parents angry over changes to swimming program

Keller Russell

Parents angry over changes to swimming program

CREATED Jul. 30, 2013 - UPDATED: Jul. 30, 2013

HARTLAND - Maegan Snow's children love swimming. It's their family sport. For three years they've taken lessons at Arrowhead High School.

"It brings us a sense of confidence cause our kids learn how to swim and be safe in water."

But she and other parents are outraged over changes to the community swim program.
"The overall cost that's going to be passed on to the every day Joe," explained Jodie Brehm, a mother with a daughter who swims two hours a day, five days a week in the summer.
The program has been run by the school district which used the Red Cross teaching curriculum. But starting in September, Lake Country Swim Team will manage the program.  Superintendent Craig Jefson says the decision was a budget issue.
"It's a program that runs in a deficit," he said.
They were paying a part-time aquatics director $17,000 a year, plus $6,000 for the lessons. And that didn't include operating costs.
"That's $23,000 that we're paying for swim lessons for the community at the taxpayers' expense and quite frankly it's pretty hard to justify in these times that we're running a program that operates like that in the red," said Jefson.
Instead the school will now make money. As part of a contract, Lake Country will pay $34,000 a year to rent space and operate their swim program and the community will still have access. 
The decision was passed by the school board unanimously. The idea of finding another way to fund community swim programs had been proposed for at least the last two years.
"Our expectation is that they will maintain current programming. Similar swimming lessons, not significantly changed, the water aerobics and anything else (programming) that's in there for the community," said Jefson.
That's no concession for upset parents though like Brehm and Snow. They've created an online petition against the change, wanting the state to get involved.
"There's a difference in how they run their programs. There's a definite difference in the cost. There's not a feeling of community," said Brehm.
Cost will increase, but minimally, Jefson said. They expect people will pay roughly 50 cents more an hour. For a child who swims two hours a day, five days a week it would be about $5 more a week.
The contract with Lake Country Swimming is for one year.
The superintendent says the school will meet with Lake Country monthly to evaluate how things are running.
It's not enough for Snow though. She believes there are better alternatives to paying for the community swim program and keeping the curriculum they prefer.
"I'd like to see the board step back and let them gather information to make a more informed decision. A decision that would benefit the whole community."