As of now, the doors of Manchester’s aquatic center are expected to partially open June 15, but much like the pool itself, plans are very fluid.
On May 26, Manchester Parks and Rec Director Doug Foley laid out his road map for opening the pool, keeping in mind the COVID-19 restrictions being set forth by the state.
While his blueprint was unanimously supported by the Manchester City Council, Foley acknowledged all of that could change with the stroke of Governor Kim Reynold’s pen.
Reynold’s current proclamation that stipulates the pool must run at 50% capacity expires June 17, and without knowing if Reynolds is going to relax, tighten or keep restrictions the same, Foley said all they can do is wait.
“We’re just going to have to adapt as much as we can if we can at all,” Foley said. “I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility that we aren’t able to swim this summer, because right now all that’s allowed is lifeguard training, lap swim and swim lessons.”
As of now, private swim lessons will begin June 15 followed by public lessons June 22, both to run through July 30.
As for open swim, the current start date is July 1, but Foley said he does not support having an open swim if more restrictions aren’t lifted before then.
“I really want to stress that I don’t want to place social distancing enforcement on our lifeguards or staff,” Foley said. “It’d be one thing if we just had to count patrons and limit it to 50% capacity, but to try to keep them distanced in the water when a 10-year-old sees their classmate in the pool that they haven’t seen in a couple of months, it’s just not realistic to try to keep everybody segregated or separated by immediate family. It would be a nightmare to enforce.”
Looking forward, Foley said he would like to keep the summertime slots the same regardless if open swim is held or not to avoid confusion for patrons.
Starting June 15, Foley has 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. slated for lessons and 1-5 p.m. for creative programming. While these programs haven’t been nailed down yet, Foley said they will likely be educational and fitness activities like water walking, aerobics or kayak safety lessons.
Starting July 1, that afternoon slot could potentially shift to open swim, but should open swim be nixed for the summer, it would remain creative programing.
Lap swim will also start June 15, with time slots of 6-7 a.m., 12-1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.
He added that everything coming from the Governor’s office is leaning toward the education aspect of pools rather than pure recreation, and he wouldn’t be surprised if that continues.
Foley also said with the combination of larger surrounding cities choosing to throw in the towel this summer and the fact that Manchester’s aquatic center has historically drawn in busloads of people from out-of-town, he expects the pool to be under the spotlight this summer, making it even more crucial that staff is able to follow health and safety guidelines.
When asked if pool staff could restrict access to just those living in Manchester, Foley said while that could be done, it would also be difficult to enforce.
“One of the things that’s always been a hallmark of our facility is that we’ve had a lot of out-of-towners who prefer our facility and I would hate to have them drive a half-hour or more just to turn them away,” Foley said. “We certainly could do that, but I guess I keep going back to the idea that if we have to limit, it might not be worth having open swim.”
As for lifeguards relying on summer jobs for money, Foley said he has provided them all with an out if they want to seek employment elsewhere, but at this time there really isn’t much other work to be had anyway.
“If we do end up losing some, we can absorb the loss of some lifeguards — we’ve really built our lifeguard base up over the past few years,” Foley said.
If they end up losing too many, Foley said they will likely eliminate the diving boards and deep end, which could end up happening through proclamation anyway as hard surfaces like diving boards and slides are difficult to keep disinfected.
Councilmember Tania Bradley said everyone she’s talked to wants the pool to open in some fashion, a sentiment Foley has been hearing as well.
However, Foley said that while this all seems like a good plan right now, that could change at the tip of a hat.
“We’re just trying to accommodate as many people as we can while trying to eliminate as many possible risks as we can,” Foley said. “We want to make sure we are able to follow enough of the guidelines to make the facility safe for all the kids and families and obviously not place any additional liability on the city.”