This year, Marshfield R-I will pay $10,000 for rental of the Springfield Public Schools (SPS) pool.

The Marshfield Schools swim team has used the John H. Foster Natatorium since its establishment. In spring 2018, superintendent David Steward received a notification that SPS would raise the rental fee.

"SPS increased costs due to the amount it was costing them to maintain the facilities," said Steward. "They are now using a prorated scale based on the number of swimmers a school has (boys and girls combined)."

About 8 to 12 students typically participate on the Marshfield swim team, according to Ronda Hubbard, Marshfield R-I athletic director. The cost of the pool rental increases, based on the number of participants on a team are:

1-5 swimmers — $2,500

5-9 swimmers — $5,000

10-19 swimmers — $10,000

20 or more — $15,000

Prior to this current year, Marshfield R-I paid $1,000 a year to use the facility, which was about the estimated flat rate for any district utilizing the pool. The school district tried looking into alternative options for the swim teams, including moving the swim program to the Seymour YMCA.

"Discussion on the topic began shortly after getting the notification about the rate increase," said Steward. "There was not enough time to make a change for the 2019-20 school year, but we decided to try to make the move for 2020-21. Ultimately, we have moved back to Springfield Public Schools and away from the Seymour YMCA because we have been unable to find a coach that is willing to drive to Seymour for practices."

Last spring, Hubbard began working with Steward to find a swimming coach for the boys and girls team. With that position, however, she said, "It's important that a swim coach have experience swimming, as it is a very technical sport."

Hubbard said they also considered combining with Logan-Rogersville and Seymour.

"Rogersville has voiced interest in being in a threesome there to utilize the Seymour YMCA," said Hubbard. "Logan-Rogersville decided to stay with Central and go back to Springfield, as well."

In its June 15 meeting, the Marshfield School Board voted not only to sign up with Springfield for usage of its pool, but to reemploy John Mullen as a swim coach at the maximum salary retirement would allow him to accept. He has been coaching the team for 10 years. Marshfield R-I started its partnership with Mullen in 2006 when the Glendale High School coach retired. At the Monday Board of Education meeting, Steward asked the school board to authorize a Memorandum of Understanding to sign on with the Springfield for usage of the pool and reemploy Mullen.

"Coach Mullen took over the boys team in 2010 and the girls team went with Kickapoo," said Hubbard. "He took over the girls team in 2014."

According to Steward, Mullen is retired and only able to accept a small amount while still being able to stay within retirement guidelines. Those guidelines are established by the Public School Retirement System (PSRS). For each season, the district paid Mullen roughly around $200 to coach.

"The typical stipend, which was approved by the school board with the stipend schedule, had been $2,000 in the past," said Steward. "If Coach Mullen were able to accept the full stipend, he would have been paid $2,000 per season last year. Since he was limited by retirement system rules, we paid him the maximum amount he was allowed to make and then used the remaining funds to purchase jackets for the swim team."

This year, the district upped the pay about 10% for base salary. It would have been at a minimum $3,500 a season, according to Steward. During the Marshfield Board of Education June 15 meeting, Hubbard said they talked about hiring an assistant coach to help Mullen this year, but no decision on the position has been made.

Logan-Rogersville's swim programs have used facilities in Springfield for over a decade. Sharing coaches and proximity, including the ability to carpool, is one of the reasons why the district elected to maintain the status quo.

L-R Athletic Director Joe Spurlin indicated it was the timing rather than the fee –– an over-double increase to $10,000 with notification that came last summer –– that was the issue.

"It's not the price that shocked us, because that might be what they needed to be charging [all along]," Spurlin said. "It was just the big jump in price in the short period of time."

Nixa, Ozark and Republic are among other non-SPS schools that also pay the fee.

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