Wenatchee teacher fired after drowning wins rehire

School district must pay $312,000 in back pay, legal fees

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WENATCHEE (AP) — A Wenatchee High School teacher who was fired after a student drowned in the school pool will return to work next term.

The school board decided not to appeal a court order to rehire Ed Knaggs.Knaggs also will receive about $312,000 in back pay and attorney fees, the Wenatchee World reported Thursday.

The district previously paid $2 million to the family of Antonio Reyes who drowned in November 2011 when Knaggs was teaching the physical education class. He was fired for failing to properly assess Reyes, who didn't know how to swim.

Knaggs appealed; a judge ruled that district and school officials shared the blame.

"We've taken steps to never let this happen again. But it's time to let the healing begin. It's time to move on," Laura Jaecks, school board president, said after Wednesday's decision.

The new position for Knaggs has yet to be determined, Superintendent Brian Flones said Thursday in a statement.

"This case has been difficult for the community, with strong and sincerely held perspectives dividing friends and neighbors about the right course of action," Flones said.

Knaggs' lawyer Quentin Batjer said, "We're just relieved that it's over."

Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan ruled in January that although Knaggs had made mistakes, the district and high school administrators were also to blame by violating standards of care in operating a swimming pool. Knaggs was the lone supervisor for about 30 students. There was no lifeguard.

Wenatchee High School swimming classes are now required to have a lifeguard on duty, plus the instructor.

Reyes had missed an assessment scheduled in the first week of class. The 14-year-old freshman was last seen treading water with the class. None of other students remember Reyes' being in obvious distress.

His body was found at the bottom of the deep end 40 minutes later by students arriving for the next class.