The town of Outlook finds itself in a rather unique position when it comes to offering aquatic recreation this summer in the form of its Van Raay & Community Swimming Pool.
That’s because Outlook’s facility has turned out to be the proverbial last man standing, with other pools in the neighbouring communities of Rosetown, Kenaston and Davidson not opening at all in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID pandemic. The province announced that outdoor swimming pools could open as soon as this past Monday as part of Phase 4.1 of the Reopen Saskatchewan Plan, but facilities such as the ones mentioned made the choice not to open, due in part to financial issues and/or difficulty in managing the new standards and guidelines.
The facility in Outlook, meanwhile, is looking at opening up on the same day that it did last year, according to Recreation Director, Trevor Ouellette.
“We’re shooting for a July 1st opening,” said Trevor, on the phone with The Outlook last week. “The reason why we’re shooting for that day is because of the boiler; we’re waiting to get that fired up and ready to go. The pool is full, but we haven’t added any chemical or balanced it up yet. We’re just waiting for the heat to get turned on and we can start adding that chemical, and then having in-service training for the staff to go through.”
Ouellette touched on how things will be different at the pool under the standards put in place due to the pandemic, including how rescues will be done if they need to be performed.
“The biggest change is how we do our rescues,” he said. “Under old protocols, we’d be able to just come out of the change house and assist right away and then the person that did the rescue stays on-site. With the new protocols, when they come to assist, they have to be fully PPE’d up (Personal Protective Equipment) and then they become charge, and then the person doing the rescue then has to dry off, get the PPE in, and then they become support. So, it’s a change on how, in rotation, a rescue will work. As well, we used a valve and mask to do our CPR in the past, and we’re going to a bag CPR now, so there’ll be even less contact if resuscitation is required. It’s not exactly new, but just a few added layers to it, and with that, we just have to practice so that everyone understands that protocol moving forward.”
With the still-new pool only opening last summer, many would’ve been heartbroken to see the COVID pandemic strike a blow to the facility and keep it on the shelf with others that won’t open this year, but the goal of those behind the scenes was always to open the doors.
“It was always my full intention to open this year,” said Trevor. “The only time we discussed closing is if we knew our opening wasn’t going to happen until after *this* date, and then that was going to be our drop date. Leading up to it though, we’ve been going full-bore and we’ve got staff hired and ready to go.”
Quite a few number of staff are also returning for the 2020 season, Ouellette noting that there are about 14 workers hired and he may increase that to 15 once the schedules have been finalized. One major facet of the pool that parents have been asking about is swimming lessons, which will see a change in size this year.
“We’re definitely going to offer lessons,” Trevor said. “I’m actually working on our mail drop for the community that’ll have the way we’re doing registration for lessons and what they’re going to look like. We’re reducing the class size from 6, 8 or 10, depending on what level you’re on, to 4 and 5. Preschool levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 are going to be 4 for sure, and then the swimmer levels 1-6 will be 5. That’s about a 40% reduction in class size, and normally we’d run four groups of lessons at one particular time so that we’d have four instructors and four classes going, and we’re now going to reduce that by 25%, so we’ll have three going. The guidelines call for the same two meters of distancing in the water, so by reducing that and the way we’re setting up our lessons is going to maximize the same speed so that we’re not trying to adjust on the fly. It’ll all be pre-determined in the way the lessons are going to run.”
All the new standards, guidelines and protocols as it relates to health, safety and distancing have been studied and analyzed as it relates to the pool, and Ouellette is confident in how it’ll be applied to ensure safety as well as enjoyment.
“We really looked at all the protocols they were suggesting two or three weeks ago, and we really worked on what’s going to work for us at our pool,” he said. “We’re really unique in the pool and the way it was built to accommodate something like this. We have the outside shower, and for lessons, everyone’s going to use it. The goal is to not open up the interior shower and have everyone use the outdoor one, but we’ll see how that runs.”
The pool’s hours of operation and the related programming try to bring a balance in order to satisfy everyone looking to go for a dip this summer.
“For the month of July, we’re going to run lessons from 8:30 to 5:00,” said Trevor. “Public swimming in the evenings from 6:00 to 8:30, and then we’ll do adult programming from 8:30 to 9:30, and that’s all on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, it’ll be public swimming from 1:00 to 5:00 and then 6:00 to 9:00. So, we’ve really tried to maximize the amount of lessons we have, as well as finding a good balance of offering enough public swim time as well as enough adult programming. We’d love to do a morning lane swim, but we just can’t see how it would work in our cleaning schedule and how our staffing would work to make that happen in the month of July. August might look a little different, but this is what we’re going to do.”
As for the closing date, Ouellette says he’d like to see the pool open through the last long weekend that we’ll have this summer.
“I would love to stay open until the Labour Day long weekend in September,” he said. “Staff usually dictates that, depending on who we have that can help stay open that weekend, and then basically put the pool to bed that following week. Worst-case scenario, we’re probably looking at the start of September, and best-case scenario is the Monday of the Labour Day long weekend. That’s always my goal every year, to close things up by then.”