OAKLAND, Calif. - A new effort has been launched to keep an Oakland high school swim program afloat.
Temescal Pool is located next to Oakland Technical High School. The school uses the pool for its swim program, which faces the threat of ending due to lack of funding. (City of Oakland Parks & Recreation Aquatics)
Oakland Technical High School has long offered students opportunities to get in the water, not only for exercise but to build the skills to be water safe, as it’s operated out of the Temescal Pool right next to the school.
But the program faced the threat of coming to an end, due to a lack of funding to pay for a lifeguard.
"Swimming has been an integral part of our program for years," said Oakland Tech P.E. teacher Patricia Brandt, who’s also the head of the Physical Education Department at the school.
Earlier this month, she made a call to the community to help save swimming at Tech, launching a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so the program can keep its lifeguard.
"We have the pool, teachers and students ready to make a splash but we need our lifeguard to make it happen," Brandt wrote on her GoFundMe page. "While we have the support of Mr. Fairly, our Principal, he doesn't have the funds to pay our lifeguard... And that is where you come in," she said, as she made her plea for the community’s support.
Brandt stressed the importance of how the program has benefited Tech students, saying, "Our students love learning how to float, put their face in, gliding, & learning the strokes. Swimming is an essential life skill and our kids deserve it, especially in our state where we're surrounded by water."
Her call was being heard by many in the community, as donations have been coming in. At last check, the effort has raised more than $15,000 dollars of its $40,000 goal.
One donor commented, "Swim lessons help everyone feel safe in the water which is literally, lifesaving."
Another wrote, "It seems egregious that high schoolers miss out on having access to their pool due to lack of funding. Hoping this is a one off and that funding is found to sustain what should be just a given as part of the high school experience…"
The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) said that it continually strives to provide students "with an educational experience that fills all their needs," but said that there were challenges that go beyond securing funding for a lifeguard when it came to providing pool access to Oakland Tech students.
One issue was that because the pool was not located on the school campus, it's run by the city, not the district.
"Being off campus complicates things for us, as staffing is an issue not just for a lifeguard but also for staff in the locker rooms to supervise the students," OUSD Communications Director John Sasaki told KTVU in a statement, as he also noted, "That need is even greater in this time of COVID, as we must ensure that students are being safe around each other."
Still, the district said that it hoped to address all of the challenges, while expressing gratitude to Brandt and her dedication to the students and the program.
"There are multiple parts that we need to put into place in order for us to bring back the swim classes, and we are focused on making it happen," said Sasaki. "We appreciate the efforts of P.E. teacher, Ms. Brandt, which will help move us closer to the goal of having our students dip their toes back in the water at Temescal Pool."