The small Dundalk outdoor pool looks more like an exclusive aquatic training facility these days due to drastically limited numbers to keep physical distance.
And parents and instructors agree that the change to only private or semi-private lessons has meant gains in swimming skills.
Dundalk Pool on June 27 was one of the first, municipal pools open in the area, once it was permitted by the province and local health unit.
Amazingly, despite only offering private lessons, about the same number are registered as last year, facilities manager Kevin Green told the Herald – about 200 compared with 220 or so.
Public swimming is also popular, despite the need to limit numbers to 10 in the pool and register ahead for 45-minute slots. Those who haven’t registered can check the board outside to see if there is space.
Another benefit is local youth employment. Last summer, there were two full-time pool staff and the rest were part-time. This year, the four guard-instructors and one guard are all working full-time.
Mr. Green said the staff are doing a great job enforcing the regulations needed. Swimmers must keep physical distance except from those in their household or social circle.
The pool deck sports a white grid six feet wide to help everyone stay aware of distance. Up until now, the diving board and slides have been out of use according to health unit rules, although that could change.
Head guard Chloe Watson said “it’s definitely different – we’ve had to change our method for instructing a lot,” with no contact allowed between the instructor and student.
As with the new screening at the door, and the detailed cleaning and disinfecting regimes, the changes become easier as they become more familiar, she said.
And there are benefits. Erin Steadman of Dundalk started taking his daughter, Dixie, to lessons here this summer for the first time. Her lessons in Orangeville were shut-down part-way through this spring.
Although his eight-year-old daughter can find an outdoor pool cool, her father observes that the safety of being outside is the reason the pool was able to be up and running.
And he said that Dixie is thriving in the one-on-one lessons. In her first two days she did all of Level Two and half of Level Three.
That quick progress is not uncommon at the pool this summer. In fact, Watson said that often students are moving through two levels in one week of instruction because of the individual attention.
And parents have less driving because all their children are scheduled at the same time. Many are coming in to watch the lessons and soak up the sun.
Public swimming has been popular, and Chloe noted that the 5 p.m. time slot is not booked ahead, to give those who don’t have internet a chance. Private rentals are more popular this summer than in previous years.
“People are coming every day and enjoying the water,” she said. “A lot of people are happy that we’re open.” The limit is five people in the pool for lessons and 10 for public swimming.
“Kudos to them for keeping it as small and safe as possible, Steadman said.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald