The hopes of swimming in the municipal pool this summer are treading water — delayed, it seems, by each new announcement from Gov. Laura Kelly as she has signed executive orders moving the state through a phased reopening plan in attempts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, published in black and white on a revised reopening plan, there is a date for the pool to reopen. The plan given to the Newton Recreation Commission by Rec Commission staff lists June 15 as the day to get into the water.
If the plan stands, the pool will be open for four hours a day, with likely two evening swims a week for families. It will not be available for group rentals, though local swim teams will be able to use the pool.
“They have been given our guidelines and will have to adhere to those,” said Brian Bascue, superintendent of the Recreation Commission. “... We will cater to our own groups. I don’t know that I want them all to practice at the same time, or that they would want that, either.”
And social distancing guidelines will be enforced. By square footage, up to about 200 people could actually be in the pool facility. Social distancing guidelines requiring six feet between people not in an immediate family may lead to the closure of the pool concession stand due to the line that forms at the stand.
“Those are decisions that we have to make yet,” Bascue said. “Come June 22 (phase out of the plan) many of these things will be out, but we will still observe some of those.”
Pool staff will begin training the week before, which in addition to standard lifeguard training will include new sanitation techniques and protocols.
“We have guidelines that we have to sanitize every four hours,” Bascue said. “We will sit down with all of our pool leadership and go over all the sanitary guidelines. Even things like our lounge chairs that we use or toys we sell and allow fall under that. We probably will not do toys this year. ... There are a lot of things.”
The Kansas Recreation and Park Association has issued guidelines for pool operations, along with sporting event guidelines, that the NRC will work through. Those plans have been updated several times in the last two weeks.
Sanitation is a big part of the plan — and has been a big part of the overall plan at the Rec. Starting March 26, the Recreation Commission has spent $3,669 to respond to COVID-19, with most of that spent on sanitizer and equipment.
The opening of the pool was listed on a one-page plan that starts today with beginning to take rentals for park shelters (with rentals allowed next week), practices allowed at outdoor facilities for club teams, training for Discovery Camp staff, and the Rec Center being open on a limited basis.
June 1 camp will begin, as will other Rec Commission activities. Club teams will be able to start games at outdoor facilities while observing sanitation, group size and social distancing guidelines.
Phase Three is set to begin June 8, when groups of up to 45 people will be allowed, and the rec center is slated to return to normal hours with the indoor pool opening to the public. Rec Center baseball and softball teams may begin to practice.
The Rec plans to start summer swim lessons the week of June 15.
The plan calls for June 22 to be a phase out — when there will no longer be a limit on gathering sizes, Fischer Field reopens, rec leagues begin games and summer programs begin.
That is all contingent on future announcements by the governor.