Parents are questioning a new policy at the Sam Ketcham Pool which requires parents without swimming attire stay off the pool deck. Angie Mindus photo

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: New pool policy restrictive and unnecessary

Why are parents and guardians not allowed on the pool deck?

EDITOR’S NOTE: See positive response below this letter from the city’s Geoff Payton on pool policy

Editor:

I am writing in regards to the pool’s new policy of parents not being allowed on the pool deck during swim lessons/public swims. I have many safety concerns as do many other parents that I have talked to about this. While most parents with older children are happy to sit in the viewing area, parents of young children and children with disabilities are not and these children are now missing out. This new rule needs to be more flexible especially for younger swimmers and people with disabilities.

Staff that I have spoken to also disagree with the new policy including many lifeguards. I raised my concerns with the Director of Community Services, who was unsure of the reasoning for the new policy. I was assured that this is a common rule at many B.C. pools. Since that conversation, I have contacted 25 of B.C.’s public pools. None of which have any rules or policies that do not allow parents to be on deck during lessons or otherwise. Most pools have rules that include no food/drink/shoes/cell phones on deck. Many pools encourage parents to watch from a viewing area but do not prevent parents from being on deck. I have attached a list of all pools I contacted along with their phone numbers and rules regarding parents on deck.

Children aged six and under are to be within arms reach of an adult at all times. During swim lessons this does not occur. Five to six children with one instructor makes it impossible for them all to be within arms reach. During lessons the instructor has to switch focus from one child to the next to allow each child a turn to practice. Their eyes and arms are not always on all children and many times their backs are turned completely. While the instructor is engaged with one child the other children are playing, jumping around, slashing and goofing off, as young children tend to do. The instructors do their best to keep the kids close but this does not always happen. As a parent I feel I have every right to be there as an extra set of eyes.

During my sons lessons (age three), between the dates of November 21-December 7, I had to gain the instructors attention to pull my son out from under the water. The first time this occurred the children were in the length pool holding on to the wall where the depth is past their heads. The kids were asked to move back over to the stairs. Instructor was helping one child do this. My three year old let go of the wall to try to swim past another child and could not get his head back above the water. I calmly got the instructor’s attention and of course he grabbed my son out. It was through no fault of the instructor, I’m sure he would have noticed in a moment or two. But unfortunately that’s all it takes, one unattended moment for a tragedy to occur.

During lessons there are streams of parents having to take their children to the bathroom. Now that parents are in the viewing area, are we to just assume our preschoolers have found their way and that they will find their way back to their lesson? If my child needs help is the stranger in the next stall going to assist him? Am I left to guess which of the three changerooms he went to? Or is this put on the lifeguard who is on duty, who needs to be available should an emergency arise?

Other parents I have spoken to about this new policy have similar concerns, and many with other valid concerns. One parent whose son is 11 has communication disabilities which normally do not prevent him from being able to swim on his own. Now that his mother is not allowed on deck to help him communicate with lifeguards or staff she is not comfortable to send him in on his own or with his friends.

A parent of an eight and 11 year old took her kids to the pool for a swim. She watched from the viewing area. When it was time to leave she wasn’t allowed on deck to let her kids know it was time to leave. Lifeguards would not let her round them up. It was a busy swim. She had to spend over 15 minutes wasting the lifeguard’s time trying to point out and find her two children just to get them out.

When speaking to Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex staff about the new policy, no one seems to understand what the reasoning is for this new policy. When watching my son at his last lesson, December 14th, parents were able to watch lessons on deck. Everyone had their shoes off. No one interfered with lessons in anyway. Parents did not distract their children from the instructor. No one approached the waters edge. Everyone sat on the benches provided or along the wall below the window, most complaining about how ridiculous it is that after those lessons they wont be allowed on deck anymore.

Thank you for your time. I sincerely hope that these new pool rules change in the near future.

Sara Gayowski

Williams Lake

“Hi Sara,

Thanks for your input. As with any new facility with new rules and policies that are being tried we rely on feedback from our users and staff to help us determine any changes that may be required.

As I indicated to you when we spoke a few weeks back there are/were many valid reasons for the policy. We are fully aware that not everyone would be pleased with the policy and we have received a fair amount of comments and suggestions on its effectiveness and have been closely monitoring how it is working.

Based on what we have seen and heard so far you can expect that changes to the policy will be coming soon. I am going to have further discussions with aquatic staff in the next little while and determine the best course of action moving forward and how we will accomplish those changes in the most effective manner.

Thanks again.

Geoff Paynton

Director of Community Services

City of Williams Lake”

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