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Tuscarora School Board considers eliminating aquatics program

July 02, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The Tuscarora School Board has started to make waves by considering a staffing change that would eliminate the district's specialized aquatics program.

In the program, elementary school children are paired with high schoolers for swimming lessons. The teenagers receive certification, while the younger children master skills needed to swim safely in deep water.

"For some of our children, these are the only swimming lessons they'll ever have," teacher Wendy Eigenbrode said.

On Monday, Eigenbrode pleaded with the school board to keep the specialized aquatics program in place. The matter will be discussed at the school board's July 14 meeting, board President Jane Rice said.

Members of the board have considered not filling a vacant physical education position, which would necessitate shifting around other staff members. That effectively could eliminate the specialized aquatics curriculum, through which elementary students are transported to the pool at James Buchanan High School.

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"They drive their teachers nuts asking when they'll go swimming," Eigenbrode said, at times speaking through tears while she extolled the program's virtues.

Teenage participants have gone on to be camp counselors and parents, after patiently working with a variety of student medical concerns including allergies, diabetes and hearing impairments, Eigenbrode said.

"They've learned how to deal with braces, prostheses and ear plugs," she said.

Eigenbrode said she realizes that transportation and pool maintenance can be costly, yet she feels the local program is one of the most comprehensive in the state.

"There will be some very disappointed high school students when they realize specialized aquatics is not on their schedule," said Eigenbrode, who added that between 75 and 100 elementary school children sign up each year.

"To let this program go would be allowing a bit of Tuscarora's heart and soul to go," she said.

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