Swim lesson backlog leaves many asking about extra space
Delayed opening at Silver Lake Park pool and closing of Rochester YMCA reduce number of pools most recently used for lessons as others in the city remain unused.
ROCHESTER — The unexpected closing of two pools in Rochester has led to growing concerns about teaching youth to swim.
“If you wanted to learn how to swim, you couldn’t because there is no more pool space in Rochester to swim,” said Pat Carroll, a former Rochester Swim Club head coach and advocate for Rochester Swimming Inc.
The planned June 6 opening of the outdoor pool in Silver Lake Park has been delayed due to vandalism that destroyed the main drain cover, and the Rochester YMCA facility closed earlier this year .
That leaves Rochester Swim Club operating lessons out of the city pool at Soldiers Field Park and the warm-water indoor pool at the Rochester Rec Center. The club operates the city’s two outdoor pools and rents space at the Rec Center.
Rochester Athletic Club also offers group and private swim lessons in its pools at 3100 19th St. NW.
With the YMCA no longer offering classes, Rochester Swim Club CEO Autumn Kappes said approximately 50 families are on a waiting list as 500 to 600 students typically attend lessons during a week.
While the swim club's website lists some specific 30-minute group lessons — between 11:45 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the Soldiers Field Pool and four similar blocks each day between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the Rec Center pool — Kappes said other lessons are offered throughout the day as room is available in the pools.
"Those are going on all throughout the day," she said, adding that instructors will find a corner of the pool to teach an individual or small group as other pool activities continue.
In a June 17 letter to Rochester city officials. Kappes said the organization is struggling to meet the needs of potential swimmers.
“Our simple goal is to assure that every child has an opportunity to learn to swim safely,” she wrote. “This goal is in jeopardy.”
Bill Shaughnessy, president of Rochester Swimming Inc, said the answer lies in a request for more time in the Rec Center warm-water pool, but advocates for 125 Live have questioned the need.
“I do think there are several other solutions to the children’s swim lesson problem,” said Tami Deedrick, a 125 Live member who said she uses the warm-water pool to exercise due to nerve damage in her foot. “I believe there are five other pools in schools here in town and the large pool in the Rec Center is often empty.”
Shaughnessy said the warm-water pool is preferred to the larger 50-meter pool at the Rec Center due to water temperature. The smaller pool is heated to 86 degrees, while the other pool is maintained at approximately 79 degrees, due to requirements for competitions.
“When you put little kids in there, they come out shivering after 10 minutes,” he said.
Kappas said the depth of the 50-meter pool also creates complications for young swimmers, so only advanced lessons are scheduled in the larger pool. They typically occur in the fall and winter.
Amy Eich, executive director of community education for Rochester Public Schools, said space in the district’s three middle school pools is available to rent, with a $36 hourly cost for nonprofit organizations and $72 for other rentals. Weekend rates increase, due to the need for extra maintenance staffing.
It compares to the $20 an hour, which Kappes said Rochester Swim Club pays at the use of the Rec Center's warm water pool, but she also raises questions about pool availability and whether they are heated during the summer.
"They save a lot of money by not turning the temperatures up," Kappes said, adding that the swim club has taken thermometers with them during past rental efforts and found the pools to be too cold for use.
Eich said the middle school pools are maintained at 81 degrees, making them 5 degrees cooler than the Rec Center warm-water pool.
In addition to uncertain temperatures, Kappes said the age and design of the older middle school pools create a challenge when teaching young, inexperienced swimmers, who either can't touch the bottom of the pool or are intimidated by gutters near the edge of the pool.
"The school pools are so old that they are not convenient," she said of the three middle school pools.
The district's high school pools are not available for use this summer due to maintenance and construction work.
By the end of the month, the swim club is expected to have more options available.
Rochester Parks and Recreation staff told the city’s Park Board this week that repairs to the Silver Lake Pool could be completed next week.
Kappes said when that happens, the classes being held at Soldiers Field will shift to Silver Lake Park, where there is less open-swim activity. It means more students can be served throughout the day.
However, the pressure for space is expected to remain, since the swim club will begin offering classes for Boys and Girls Club and the Jeremiah Program participants, and volunteers will start offering weekend classes.
"We'll see if we can get everyone through," Kappes said.