Closing the Milpitas High School pool at the start of the 2009-10 school year on Monday is a decision that may leave the Trojans' swim teams high and dry, possibly forcing them to eliminate the program.

This is one of many budget cuts that the Milpitas Unified School District previously approved and scheduled to implement this year, after state monies left them treading water with an increase of limited funding to education.

The recommendation to close the pool came after Superinten-dent Karl Black weighed the cost versus use of the approximately 40-year-old facility. In prior years the swim team and freshmen students enrolled in annual three-week classes were the only people utilizing the pool. According to Black it cost $50,000 to $60,000 a year to maintain the pool. The fees included custodial upkeep by constantly repairing cracks since "it's old and in need of repair" as well as paying equipment costs for chlorine, water and heating, Black said.

It was asked whether there were any other situations that spurred the decision. Called into question was the near-drowning of freshman Jerry Pham, 14, during a swim class in October 2007. Six people composed of classmates, school security guards and Milpitas police officers came to his rescue by pulling him from the pool. Black said that incident after which the family sued the school district seeking $10 million did not dictate the closure.

"It's really just financial," Black responded of the closure. "From a


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financial standpoint, it didn't make sense. If you think about the mission of a school district, and that is to provide an education, (it was) taking educational dollars away from other things."

At a Board of Education meeting in February, Milpitas High School swimming instructor Jennifer Loomis, Coach Rocky Pagan, and swim team members Jayson Trinh, An Nguyen, Lauren Padilla, Michelle Pham and Sarah Lynd Hayes all talked about the positive impact of swimming and being a part of the school team, urging board members to save the program.

At that time, Black responded that the high school swimming pool was in dire need of repair, does not meet regulations, has constant leaks and equipment failures and would need serious money to fix or replace.

It has not been confirmed whether the pool closure will eliminate the school team, but Black has yet to hear news of where else the team will practice. By the Post's press deadline this week, Coach Pagan had not yet responded.

City of Milpitas houses a pool suitable for practice at the Milpitas Sports Center on East Calaveras Boulevard, located almost 3 miles away from Milpitas High. But according to Bonnie Greiner, City of Milpitas parks and recreation director, she has not received a request from the team regarding pool use. And it may not be a feasible option.

Greiner said City of Milpitas swim programs are operating at 100 percent capacity with the pool in use from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"We are programmed out," she said. "It would be very difficult."

It may soon be in local voters' hands to take a stand in placing value on programs, like that of swimming, Black said. In November, residents can expect to see a survey about the possibility of a parcel tax. If the approval rating looks favorable, Black said the district hopes to begin a campaign in the spring.

"This would be a type of thing where you could put that in there where the local taxpayers are saying whether it's important or not," Black said. "These are the types of things that perhaps go into a parcel tax and transportation ... to help support kids and programs. ... I would love to support the swim team. These are really the hard types of decisions a board has to make."