Monica Lamb-Yorski photo                                Parents and caregivers watch Blue Fins practice at the pool from the side of the viewing area Monday.

Monica Lamb-Yorski photo Parents and caregivers watch Blue Fins practice at the pool from the side of the viewing area Monday.

City eases new pool policy after community feedback

Parents of young children now allowed on deck of pool during swimming lessons at West Fraser Aquatic Centre

Feedback from a number of parents has led to changes at the new West Fraser Aquatic Centre.

After hearing from concerned pool patrons, including a letter from parent Sara Gayowski, the pool adjusted their policy as of Jan. 15, to allow parents of children, particularly those under six, on the pool deck during swimming lessons.

The original policy, which started after the new pool opened, prevented parents and guardians from accessing the pool deck unless they were wearing swimming attire.

The situation created a conversation on social media, following a letter Gayowski penned to city staff, officials and the Tribune, and a quick response from Geoff Paynton, director of community services, who indicated the policy would be eased.

Read the Gayowski’s letter and Paynton’s response: Pool policy restrictive and unnecessary

Gayowki said Monday she is pleased with the changes.

“I think that anytime you listen to the community it’s good — if other people want to voice their concerns about how it should stay that way, they should too. We should find a middle ground.”

It’s a statement echoed by Paynton this week.

“I totally get both sides, but we have to find a balance and that’s what we’re going to do.”

While a no food or drink policy has always been in place at the pool, when some people were allowed on deck they would sneak food in, or run around, causing cleanliness concerns, said Paynton.

“Some people just don’t follow the rules. Unfortunately this small group ruins it for everyone else.”

He said one of the other reasons for the policy included the need to have children in swim lessons focused on their instructor, not their parent, while they are getting a lesson.

“We want children to have a healthy respect for the water,” he said. “Mom and dad aren’t always going to be there.”

Gayowski, who has a three-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter, started talking to management after the policy was enforced during her son’s swim lessons and she couldn’t be near him.

On Jan. 11, she wrote a letter addressing her concerns, asking that the rules become more flexible.

“It’s awesome that they enforce their rules,” she told the Tribune. “But they cannot be always watching my kid.”

Gayowski said she was worried about her son, because he often tries to do more than he is capable while in the water. While she said that she in no way blames swimming instructors or lifeguards for this, they just sometimes have several children to be watching at the same time and may miss something. Additionally, small children in lessons were having to leave the instructor to use the washroom without help or supervision from their parents who were behind the glass viewing area.

She referred to the rule the swimming pool has during public swims: children aged six and under are to be within arms reach of a child at all times.

Read more: The West Fraser Aquatic Centre now open

Paynton said that Gayowski was not the only parent who was uncomfortable with the new policy, and as a response the City reviewed the policies at the pool.

The new policy, while making exception for parents of six-year-olds or younger, or those with disabilities, on deck for lessons, encourages parents children over the age of six to remain in the glassed off viewing area. It specifies that the front desk must be informed due to legal requirements. He hopes parents of older children will remain outside the pool in the viewing area.

“We’re doing our best to please as many people as we can, we are learning as we go, but it takes time to make changes.”

When questioned about the removal of the diving board and rope swing, and shallowness of both pools, Paynton said that was a decision made early on in the plans for a new pool.

“You only have so much money, you can’t have everything,” he said, noting having a deep end almost doubles a pool’s water volume and costs millions of dollars in extra costs, including tens of thousands in extra heating and treating on a yearly basis.

Paynton said in the future they could look at adding a rope swing to please older children, but there will never be a diving board.

“We chose to invest in other areas such as the waterslide, a better steam room and a bigger second pool,” said Paynton.