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High school swimmers prepare for proposed cuts

By Alexis Fernandez 7:49 PM January 29, 2014

The Anchorage School District is proposing eliminating swimming classes at high schools to help with a $23 million budget shortfall.

ANCHORAGE – As the Alaska State Legislature debates whether to increase student funding for the Anchorage School District, the high school swimming community is bracing for proposed cuts to its program.

Freshman Delaney Heckert, and sophomore Elizabeth Heberling love to swim. In fact, it’s their favorite class at Bartlett High School.

“I’m able to be with other people … to have contact with people so I can make new friends, and able to make new friends and I’m able to just have a fun time,” Elizabeth said.

But it’s more than just fun. It’s a class where nearly 600 high school students across Anchorage learn how to swim every year.

“It really comes in handy, teaches kids how to swim if they don’t know how,” Elizabeth said.

But come next year, swimming classes could be gone.

The Anchorage School District is proposing eliminating the course at all high schools to help with a $23 million budget shortfall.

In total, 24 classes would be canceled at six of the eight high schools in Anchorage. It would save about $270,000. This would not, however, impact swim teams and special education programs that include swim classes.

“It’s the single most expensive class we teach,” said Michael Graham, a spokesperson with the Anchorage School District.

The cost is so high, Graham said, because the district has to rent the high school pools from the Municipality of Anchorage, which is in charge of operating them.

“If you look at the personnel cost and the rental cost that it takes to teach a single period or two of swimming, it becomes very expensive,” he said.

Last year, the district said it spent $400,000 on high school swim classes alone.

“Certainly discussed in the past, but because we have valued it as a skill, we wanted to make that opportunity available for kids, but we have come to the point where can no longer afford that,” he said.

But for some students, it’s their only opportunity to get in the water.

“There are so many people who still want to learn how to swim, and if you cut swimming classes, then they really won’t have a chance,” Delaney said.

For now, students are safe in the water.

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