How Columbia Neighborhood Swim League team assignments are impacted by school redistricting

The Columbia Neighborhood Swim League (CNSL) brings families together every summer. For over 50 years, participating children improve swimming abilities, develop good sportsmanship and compete as part of their neighborhood team in a safe and supportive learning environment. But it's not just a recreational activity for neighborhood kids, it's also a social outlet for parents. In fact, when my family moved to Columbia last summer, swim team was regularly cited by our neighbors as one of the things they like best about living here. It's a great way to meet your neighbors and helps to foster a sense of community and pride. In addition to the practices and meets, swim teams host potlucks, barbecues, and theme nights at their pool all throughout the summer.


CNSL has 14 teams throughout Columbia, Ellicott City, and Clarksville. Team assignments are determined by your residence according to CNSL guidelines. These guidelines specify that if your family resides on CA-assessed property, then you must swim for your neighborhood team. If you don't live on CA-assessed property, then you swim for the team that your elementary school is assigned to. Alternatively, anybody can opt to join an underutilized team. The 2019 team assignment list is available here.


Since team assignments for families who don't reside on CA-assessed property are determined by elementary school assignment, the recent school redistricting may change which swim team your family is assigned. However, no changes will be made for the summer of 2020. Marty Oltmanns, the Aquatics Director for Columbia Association, explains that "Columbia Neighborhood Swim League is not planning to make any changes due to redistricting until everything with the Howard County Public School System is finalized. We will be using the same team assignment breakdown for the summer 2020 league as in past summers."


While no changes will be made for this upcoming summer, changes can be expected for summer 2021 after the school area adjustments are implemented. Oltmanns goes on to state that "Once the new areas are finalized by HCPSS and implemented, then we will make adjustments. If you were on a team previously, you will be able to continue to be on that team because of the grandfather rule we already have in place. Anyone new to CNSL would follow the new redistricting rules whenever we make them effective."


The grandfather rule that Oltmann cites is part of the CNSL's Rules and Regulations handbook, which specifies that families can continue to swim for the same team even if they move to another swim district or, as explained by Oltmanns, if a family is redistricted to another school. However, it should be noted that under this rule, if that swimmer or family skips a season, they are no longer grandfathered to that team and have to register for the team assigned to their current residence.


An interesting wrinkle is that some school assignment areas (polygons) contain both homes that are on CA-assessed property and some that are not. For areas like this that had been redistricted to an elementary school outside their neighborhood, the swim team assignment rules could result in homes within the same polygon being assigned to different swim teams. I wonder if the Columbia Association will provide an exception for these neighborhoods when they adopt new swim team assignments after this summer.

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