Local high school students are getting a new aquatic sport in the fall just as Kern High School District prepares to open its first new pool in a century.
The Board of Trustees voted to approve implementation of water polo as a California Interscholastic Federation sport in the district during its meeting Monday night.
The program will initially be offered at nine-to-10 campuses this fall. Four-to-five schools will wait and see how the program turns out before considering adding it to its sports lineup, and five other schools said they are not interested in the program, explained Catherine Lugo, aquatics coordinator, at last month's meeting.
In recent years, the district added girls wrestling and frosh/soph soccer. An entirely new sport like water polo has not been added since around the 1990s.
KHSD joins Bakersfield Christian and Garces Memorial high schools which have boys and girls varsity and junior varsity water polo programs available.
Though the sport was approved, it did not come without some pushback from board members.
President J. Bryan Batey did not like that it would only be offered at about half of the district's comprehensive school sites. What would happen in six months time when parents at the remaining school sites go to their principals or the board and say their children were not given a chance to participate, he posed to Stan Greene, director of school support services.
"I know you’ve spoken to the principals and athletic directors, but you haven't spoken to every parent. There’s thousands of parents out there that are at the other nine schools that will not be happy that their principal didn’t participate," Batey said. "I think we should be offering to all 18 schools."
Greene said he and Lugo were already anticipating and developing ways they would expand the program in coming years when other schools become interested.
When the district implemented frosh/soph soccer a few years ago, it was added to about half of its schools. This year, almost all of them have a frosh/soph boys and girls teams.
"Once it’s there and they see it, anytime you can provide kids with opportunities I think it’s a good thing," Greene said.
Costs and pool availability were also points of discussion.
The district will open the Kern Aquatics Complex located next to Independence High School next month. The estimated $14 million complex will be made up of an 18-lane main pool as well as a nine-lane warm-down pool. It will also include a diving well.
Estimated expenses to run a set of teams at the center come out to $13,000 per school site, which includes coaches' and transportation costs, Greene explained. Renting other pools would come out to about $27,000 per school.
Trustee Jeff Flores questioned whether it was possible to house nine to 10 schools' teams at the Kern Aquatics Complex. Lugo said the district "would be able to self-sustain the entire summer, but once school hits we’d probably have to rent out one more pool just to make sure we don’t crowd them" during practices. At least three practices could run simultaneously at the complex during the fall season.
However, Greene added, "As this grows and we end up with potentially a varsity and junior varsity, we’re going to need to rent more pools." Additional pool possibilities include Bakersfield College, Greenacres, North of the River, Rio Bravo and McMurtrey.
The district's next steps include recruiting arranging pool contracts for the fall, organizing coaches, officials and player trainings and planning a summer league.