I hardly ever find myself in agreement with both sides of a discussion.
But today is one of those times.
The West York school board seems to be supportive of a proposal to add a learn-to-swim program for second-graders in the district.
And district Superintendent Emilie Lonardi is dragging her heels a bit.
Before you reach the conclusion that Lonardi opposes the idea of a swimming program for elementary school students, be advised that's just not the case. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, district administrators were the ones who proposed the swim program to the board in the first place.
Administrators liked the notion of second-graders taking swimming lessons twice a week for four weeks at a local pool. That's eight classes designed to make the youngsters more comfortable in and around water.
It's probably money -- about $18,000 or $24,000, depending on which plan is approved -- well spent.
I recall being a student in the West York system more than 50 years ago when, as a fifth-grader, many of us were bused to the YMCA for learn-to-swim lessons after school.
If I recall correctly, we didn't have to sacrifice any class time because it was done after school. The district provided transportation to the Y, and parents picked up students after the swimming lessons were done for the day.
As far as I know it worked out well. One thing for sure, it's where I learned to swim. It was, I guess, where almost every fifth-grader in the school district learned to swim.
And for me personally, it was a real blessing in terms of water safety and having provided a platform where I could enjoy water-related experiences -- camps, vacations, family picnics around lakes and swimming pools and Boy Scout outings -- with confidence for the rest of my life.
If, as board member Todd Gettys said, education is about more than just academics and athletics, but preparing students for life, then swimming lessons for elementary kids definitely apply.
"Swimming is not on the PSSAs, but it's a life skill," Gettys said.
It seems like the swimming lessons have received a thumbs-up response by most, if not all, members of the school board.
They like the idea. Which explains, I guess, why board members were upset last week when the swimming classes were removed from the proposed 2012-13 district budget.
"It only takes basic skills to save a life," board member Brian Strathmeyer said. "I'm disappointed that we can't find a way to make this happen."
I couldn't agree more.
On the other hand, Lonardi pulled the swimming proposal off the budget for the best of all possible reasons -- cost considerations.
She's reluctant to push the swimming program because it would represent a recurring cost to the district at a time when school districts throughout the state are struggling to balance their budgets.
West York falls into that category. The district is considering the use of more than $4.5 million from the undesignated fund to help balance the budget for the next school year.
And so the question is obvious: Should the district consider adding any new programs when it's having difficulty making ends meet as it is?
It's not that Lonardi opposes the swimming program, it's that she's concerned about paying for it once it's approved. This year it's $18,000 -- maybe $24,000, if a nurse and an adult supervisor are necessary -- and next year it might cost even more.
"My fear is that we add it to the 2012-2013 budget, and then we have to cut it (or pay for it?) the following year," she said.
I totally agree. Maybe the timing isn't right to add a new program. A learn-to-swim class would be nice, but not if it means increasing school property taxes again to pay for it.
And there is the additional consideration of students losing instruction time to attend swim classes, which apparently is a concern for teachers.
Perhaps that could be resolved by backing up the swim sessions to the end of the school day so no instruction time is lost.
Anyway, I find myself in total agreement with school board members who think the swim program is essential in the development of an important life skill, and I'm in total agreement with Lonardi that adding a new program during challenging financial times leaves a lot to be desired.
They're all right.
And I don't get to say that very often.
If only they weren't pulling in opposite directions.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.