Designating swimming as a varsity sport at Anne Arundel County high schools could cost the school system an estimated $240,000, the board of education learned this week.
Now, school board members must decide if they do in fact want to add swimming to the sports offered at county high schools. If they vote to do so, they would have to allocate the funds in next year's budget, which will be voted on by the board Feb. 15.
Swimming is still a burgeoning sport in Maryland, Marlene Kelly, the school system's athletics coordinator, told the board. However, there are rules established by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association that would govern the sport, if introduced at the high schools.
The rules prevent the board from recognizing the sport for the remainder of this school year, as several high school students have asked so that they could compete in a MPSSAA championship before they graduate.
"From a short-term perspective, it's something we'll have to live with," said Bob Gicquelais, who coordinates a county swim meet and whose daughter, a senior at Severna Park High, is a swimmer. "From a longer-term perspective it's a good thing that we can get moving so quickly with it for next year."
Though the school board hasn't taken a formal position, board members seemed agreeable to the proposition of adding swimming, perhaps next year, said Gicquelais, who's said he began lobbying for a swimming program four years ago.
"I think they see the benefits and the value to all the students in the county," he said. "I thought it was all pretty positive."
Board members asked Kelly and Gregory V. Nourse, assistant superintendent of business and management, for more information on certain parts of the proposal, most notably, a comparison of the startup costs of swimming versus the startup costs of lacrosse, now a varsity sport.
Kelly noted that the costs will be different, because most of the cost of starting swimming is renting pool space since the school system has no pools. With lacrosse, most of the costs were associated with purchasing equipment.
She said that if the board elects to start a swimming program, it should be available at each of the county's 12 high schools, and the school system should provide transportation, so that any student who wants to participate is able.
The estimated costs for a varsity swimming program include: $33,396 for coaches at 12 high schools; $115,800 for transportation; $57,300 for uniforms; $1,920 for officials at eight meets and $360 for officials at a county championship. The remainder of the expenses would pay for pool time.
The estimates were based on 25 students per school participating, though Kelly said she expects the sport to be much more popular than that.
The season would run from Nov. 15 to mid-March, Kelly said, one of the few winter sports, and might be used by other athletes as a conditioning sport.
In other business, the school board adopted a new grading policy that would, among other things, allow students to retake a class for a better grade. The first attempt would be wiped from the students' transcripts.