Aquatics Teams Left High and Dry While San Diego Waits to Reopen City Pools

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Instead of being able to practice in the city of San Diego’s public pool in Allied Gardens, members of Patrick Henry High School’s aquatics team practice in the grass right next to it.

“I find it extremely frustrating,” exclaimed parent Susan Furtak.

The frustration stems from the fact that California now allows high school swimming and diving under the purple tier.

While other municipalities and school districts in San Diego County have already taken the plunge and reopened their pools, the city of San Diego’s pools remain closed.

“More than anything, we have to keep everyone safe and that's something we understand and are willing to do," explained Patrick Henry High School aquatics coach Charlie Equels.

Though he understands the challenges, he questions if the pool closures are due in part is because lifeguards have been used, since at least May of 2020, to help staff the city's homeless shelter at the Convention Center.

“We have to come together and find a common ground for the athlete and youth of our nation," Equels said.

The diversion of lifeguard staff is about the bigger picture, according to Mayor Todd Gloria's office.

In a statement, mayoral spokesperson Dave Rolland said, “City pools were closed to school use in response to the State’s stay-at-home order. After our region recently returned to the Purple Tier, Mayor Gloria directed staff to develop a plan to open the pools to CIF swimmers in accordance with public-health protocols. Working collaboratively with San Diego Unified School District, the Parks and Recreation Department is preparing to open them next week.” 

Rolland went on to say, "The pandemic has required City employees to step up in different ways to support the most vulnerable among us. With pools closed, aquatics staff stepped forward and helped the City keep San Diegans experiencing homelessness safe from the COVID-19 virus and put them on a path toward permanent housing or longer-term shelter."

“Every child that’s not getting out and exercising, its huge on their mental stability,” parent Susan Furtak said.

Pool reopenings on the horizon is good news for Furtak's 11th grade son, and other athletes who may be banking on college scholarships.

“This is their window for being seen and considered and this will have a huge impact on juniors and seniors," she said.

City pools were closed to school use because of the state's stay at home order, which was lifted by Governor Gavin Newsom in January.

A city spokesperson said La Jolla High School is the only school with an on-campus pool.

Coach Equels said most other schools have to use the city-run pools that are now shut down.

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