HASA and school district disagree on pool useAn incident last week that both sides are now calling a misunderstanding somehow ended with Hudson police being called to the Hudson Middle School pool.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
An incident last week that both sides are now calling a misunderstanding somehow ended with Hudson police being called to the Hudson Middle School pool.
The dispute arose when 38 members of the Hudson Area Swim Association (HASA) showed up at the open swim at the Hudson Middle School pool. An adult from the organization paid the Community Education secretary on hand the $2 fee per person and the group received her permission to set up four lanes the HASA swimmers could use.
There were two swimming classes also using the pool at the time as well as about 10 open swimmers.
HASA contends that they were given permission by Deputy Superintendent Nancy Sweet to participate in the open swim if they paid the individual fee. Sweet said the district did offer “individual enrollment in the open swim but that there was no offer of organizational enrollment in the open swim.”
What happened last Thursday when the HASA swimmers showed up at the open swim depends on who you talk to. In a letter to their membership, HASA vice president Laura Blinkman said that Community Education coordinator Michelle Hagen arrived at the pool about a half hour later and “ordered all HASA parents off the pool deck” and told the group that they could only use two lanes of the pool.
According to Sweet, the secretary at the pool called Hagen and notified her that there was a large group of HASA swimmers using the pool. Sweet said that the HASA adults on the pool deck were coaches and that coaching and/or private swim lessons are prohibited during the open swim period. According to Sweet, the two coaches then removed their shirts and jumped into the pool.
According to Blinkman’s letter, the 38 swimmers were moved into the lanes they were allowed but crowding that many into the lanes resulted in some of the children getting kicked with several leaving the water in tears.
Sweet said that one of the parents became very agitated when his child was kicked and began yelling at Hagen. During this time Hagen called and talked with Director of Financial Services Tim Erickson and described what was happening. In an interview Monday, Erickson said he could hear the parent in the background and that he sounded very agitated, belligerent and aggressive toward Hagen.
Erickson, who was with Superintendent Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten and Sweet at the Administrative Services Center at the time, described the situation to them and the superintendent authorized Sweet to call 911 and summon police. Erickson said all three administrators agreed that what he overheard when talking to Hagen raised “serious safety concerns for everyone at the open swim.”
Police arrived at the pool around 7 p.m., just before Erickson, Sweet and Bowen-Eggebraaten. According to the report from Sgt. Brad Kusmirek, there were about 100 people at the pool when he arrived. Two other officers arrived shortly thereafter.
According to Kusmirek, Hagen told him people were upset with how they were managing the pool area and limited the number of lanes allowed for their use. She also stated that one of the parents yelled at her and that she was concerned that they would not be able to manage the situation.
Police spoke with the parent who said his son had been kicked in the face because the lanes were too crowded. Sweet requested that the parent be asked to leave by police and he complied. Police were on the scene about 50 minutes. The police took no action and no one was cited.
Erickson said he also talked with the parent who was upset and explained their reasons for calling police. He said the parent understood and apologized for his earlier behavior.
HASA parent Dave Schmitt was at the open swim and said he did not witness any HASA parent getting angry or agitated over the incident. Blinkman described it this way. “One of the parents of an injured swimmer approached Michelle Hagen in order to better understand why these two lanes remained vacated while the HASA kids were overcrowded, as any parent would do. This parent acted appropriately. Somehow this was perceived as a threat and a 911 call was placed.”
Sweet said HASA has exclusive use of the pool three nights a week from 6-8 p.m. and that they were offered use of the pool from 8-10 p.m. on the other two nights. Schmitt said that those hours were not acceptable because some of their swimmers are as young as 7 and 8 and that it was too late to practice on school nights. Schmitt said that to be effective, swim practices have to be held five nights a week.
According to Sweet, HASA swimmers accounted for 31 percent of pool usage in 2010-11. The Hudson High School swim team used it 26 percent of the time, open swim had it for 14 percent of the time and groups like middle school clubs, the summer swim program, pool maintenance and other community use accounted for the remaining 29 percent.
Bowen-Eggebraaten said that demand for the pool is growing but that after school use, community use is the first priority followed by use by clubs like HASA. “We have to be sure to provide access to the pool for everyone in the community including seniors, families, individuals and groups like HASA.”
Schmitt said that the pool can support multiple activities, even during the open swim, and that HASA is willing to share the pool with Community Education.
Sweet and Schmitt both said they are willing to sit down and discuss the situation and a possible solution. Blinkman also urged HASA parents to phone or write school board members and district administrators about the district’s policy regarding the use of the pool. HASA also plans on making a request to change district policy at the Dec. 13 Board of Education meeting.