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High school student-athletes protest Salt Lake County mayor's ban on using community pools for practice

Posted at 4:49 PM, Nov 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-27 20:39:37-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Students from multiple high schools in Salt Lake County gathered in protest Friday, asking Mayor Jenny Wilson to bring down her ban on swim teams using county pools for practice.

There was a group of about 40 students from East, Alta and Mountain Ridge high schools.

“We just wanted to try and get her attention in any way possible,” said Elizabeth Mayer, a senior at East High School.

Not all of the students knew that county offices were closed for the holiday weekend, but the ones who knew said it was worth coming out.

“If we want to get our pools open, we’ll do whatever it takes,” said Mayer.

The problem isn’t as simple as some of these students think.

Mayor Wilson’s office told FOX 13 they certainly don’t want to ban any sports and can't control what happens on school grounds with other teams.

The mayor’s office said it can only control what happens in county facilities.

With schools that don’t have their own pools, that’s where there is a problem.

County facilities allow individual reservations for lap swimming — their goal is to keep numbers of those in the locker rooms and pool space small.

“We’ve already paid for our school space,” said Audrey Pierce, a senior at Mountain Ridge High School. “Now we have to pay $7 for a pool fee to go in individually.”

For Mayer and her fellow teammates, she hopes they can get back into the pool so she can finish off her swim season at the end of February.

“COVID doesn’t spread through a pool,” said Mayer. "There are plenty of chemicals in there that are just going to kill it right off.”

Wilson responded with a statement after hearing about the protests.

“Salt Lake County acknowledges and appreciates the responsible civic engagement by students today and the coaches and teams who contacted us this week regarding the use of County Recreation Centers for organized swim team practices," she said. "The operation of County facilities is very complex... The County’s senior leadership team and our health authorities are meeting Monday morning to specifically review school teams’ use of our facilities and will be in touch with further information as we continue to review and refine facility guidelines during this critical period of COVID-19 response.”

Students expressed they may return in the next week, when the mayor is in the office, to protest again.