By MIA CALIVA
Amongst the chaos and politics of the Oct. 25 Redlands Unified School Board meeting, a local swim team named the Inland Empire Aquatics took to the podium to request pool access at Citrus Valley High School. The Inland Empire Aquatics Club has been adamant in requesting this pool access, with several student-athletes and parents speaking during public participation with the School Board, sharing their stories and reasons for request.
Citrus Valley High School parent Karen Hitter says, “[IEAQ] started at a community pool in Highland, and then to Pacific high school, and finally we were at Indian Springs High School before we were pushed out by another San Bernardino High School.”
IEAQ is currently practicing at Indian Springs High School. IEAQ reportedly does not have access to any other pools in Redlands.
Public participation from IEAQ parents and athletes also reveals that another local swim team, the Redlands Swim Team, has access to all Redlands pools, including the pool at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, which makes the appearance that IEAQ is being unfairly mistreated.
RST has access to all local facilities due to an old contract with the District from over many years ago. Several parents and students remarked that this old contract should be terminated as it prevents other aquatics teams from growing and providing for many athletes.
The Board was provided with statistics when Redlands Unified School District resident Maria Figueroa said, “Roughly 80% of Citrus Valley aquatics athletes come from clubs other than RST.”
Despite the fact that many Citrus Valley aquatic athletes are members at IEAQ, limited pool access for IEAQ prevents Citrus Valley athletes from pursuing their extracurriculars.
Figueroa goes on to express her disappointment with the School Board. She says, “This creates inequality with access to Citrus Valley and RST’s ability to serve Citrus Valley athletes.”
Hitter says, “We just want a fair opportunity to use or share the facility.”
The IEAQ team carries more than 100 competitive swimming members per year but has had fewer members since COVID. Still, the club is still largely community-oriented.
Citrus Valley student Jonah Martinez says, “I’ve been a member of this family for 6 years. We’ve all grown close together through COVID. Nothing had broken us apart and now thanks to the relevant and old contracts, exclusive clubs, and decisions made by the district and school board we are ultimately torn apart.”
Supporters feel that because of restricted pool access, IEAQ is being broken up and prevented from possibly giving rise to many great swimming athletes. Several requests have been denied multiple times and many are upset at what they feel is mistreatment.
The Redlands School Board has still yet to allow pool access.
In a heartfelt conclusion, Martinez says, “This issue is beyond contracts, rights, and laws. I just want to be with my teammates and under the advice and direction of my coaches.”
Feature photo: An empty Citrus Valley High School swimming pool prior to the water polo match on Dec. 15, 2022. (DESTINY RAMOS/ Ethic News photo)