Longtime swimming coach Dick Shoulberg, who has been on administrative leave from Germantown Academy in Fort Washington since October, will return as coach emeritus for the remainder of the school year, according to a letter Monday night from the head of school, Jim Connor.

Shoulberg, who cofounded the Germantown Academy Aquatic Club and turned it into an elite national squad over the last 44 years, could not be reached for comment.

Connor's letter says Shoulberg "took a leave of absence . . . to address health concerns," and rebuts unspecified rumors to the contrary. Shoulberg told The Inquirer on Dec. 4 that his leave was not voluntary and that he was not ill.

Numerous friends and former students said the coach had recovered from previous medical issues and at the time of his leave appeared to be in good health.

Several parents and a high-ranking administrator said the leave of absence came after an altercation, or series of altercations, between two boys on the swim team. The sources did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the allegations and because the boys are minors.

According to the letter, Shoulberg will retire at the end of the 2014-15 school year and "step away from day-to-day coaching and many administrative duties," but will help search for a permanent replacement.

On the heels of his departure, Shoulberg's friends and former students - many now swim coaches themselves - flooded Connor's office with calls and letters seeking his return. A petition on Change.org had gathered 1,620 signatures by Monday night.

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