BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — A Buffalo Public high school student is pleading with the city school district to let swimmers return to the pool.
The swim season has been put on hold because of the pandemic, but Alexandra Switalski, 17, says it’s time to let students return to their sport.
“Our swim team's always been a family since day one and it's just a really amazing experience that they're taking away from us,” Switalski declared. “It’s really upsetting.”
Switalski, a senior at City Honors School, lights up when she talks about her passion for swimming. She excels in the 100 and 200 back stroke.
The high school senior says the city school district has pushed back the start of the girl’s swim team three times because of Covid, while other public school districts and catholic school teams keep on swimming.
And it’s happening while the district is allowing other high risk sports such as football, basketball and volleyball.
“That's the most frustrating part — is that all these other sports, that are high risk and more of a contract sport, where there’s close proximity to each other, have been able to go on,” described Switalski
Switalski is leading the charge to get her swim team back in action.
“Do you feel like you’re their voice right now, trying to help them swim?” asked Buckley.
“Yeah, I’m actually the only senior this year, so it's kind of like really important to be because it would be my last season and I’ve been really pushing for this,” replied Switalski
Switalksi emailed the district's athletic department and school board urging them to give her and her teammates a chance to swim, even offering to pay for any costs.
But she says she’s received “little-to-no response”.
“We basically just want them to give us the go-ahead — we have everything we need — we have swimmers, coaches, the equipment, we have a calendar — we have a championship meet to go to and we just need them to give us the go ahead,” Switalski explained.
School board member Lou Petrucci declined to talk to us, instead sending an email stating the district’s swim program does not "align with the rest of the sectional teams" and in the winter, city school teams swim against themselves”.
But Petrucci also wrote "the rest of section six has swimming as a fall sport".
Switalksi also posted this petition on changedotorg. And some heavy hitters are lending a voice, too.
Olympic gold medalist bobsledder Steve Mesler, who's a City Honors graduate, emailed the district's athletic leader.
Mesler told the Switalski if he doesn't hear a response, he will sign her petition, joining other star athletes who have already signed it.
“We’ve also had Maritza Corriea McClendon sign it — she's actually the first female African American athlete to make the us team. There's also Gabriele Rose who swam in the 1996 and 2000 summer olympics,” Switalski said.
Jim Richardson, 1995 NCAA Coach of the Year and former head coach for the Women's University of Michigan Swim Team and Mark Rauterkus, the Webmaster of the International Swim Coaches Association, also signed the petition.
The district's director of athletics, Michael House, tells 7 Eyewitness News "due to the pandemic and school closure, the district did not have students in-person in the fall and there was no swim season for the Buffalo schools".
House explained the reason other districts are still swimming is they are in a different sports league, Section 6 NFL.
But House says "God willing"and depending on the pandemic, they're hoping there will be a fall swim season for next school year.
However, that would be too late for Switalski. She's set to graduate in June from City Honors, but she has already been selected for the swim team at SUNY Binghamton where she be attending college.
Switalski says she’s learned chlorine in the pool kills the Covid virus in seconds.
“It’s just frustrating when a low risk sport has been pushed back while high risk sports have been able to be carried out,” Switalski responded.