South Suburban prepares pools, despite uncertainty (VIDEO)

'We still have a lot of questions unanswered'

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South Suburban Parks and Recreation provides indoor and outdoor recreation to communities across the south Denver metro area. Those amenities look a lot different during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lone Tree Recreation Center is scheduled to open on June 1 with safety guidelines in place. The dirstrict's four outdoor pools are usually open by now, with crowds of 200-300 people at each location on a warm day.

RMPBS visited the Cook Creek pool as water was slowly pouring in.

"We are committed to getting this pool open in some capacity this summer," said Kelsey Whisler, assistant recreation director with South Suburban. "It is an exciting day, but we still have a lot of questions unanswered. We are filling the pool and it’s after Memorial Day so that's definitely unusual. We unfortunately don't have specific dates yet as to when we can open the pools, but we are hopeful and that’s why we are filling it. We hope to get some folks out here enjoying it soon."

Typically, it’s the beginning of March when the agency begins the process of opening its outdoor pools. A lot of that time is spent on recruiting staff and getting lifeguards trained.

But because of COVID-19, they haven't been able to do any of the usual work due to social distancing and mask wearing. Those restrictions have prevented lifeguard training.

Whisler says the agency is working through these issues now and do have several lifeguard applications. As soon as they are able, they will begin running as many lifeguard classes as they need to make sure they are safely staffed, she said.

May is also National Water Safety Month because people are usually gearing up to go swimming. There are a lot of kids who haven't been able to do swim lessons for the last three months, which is why South Suburban officials are are concerned there could be more saves at its pools, so it's important to have lifeguards and get them trained.

And there are other challenges the agency is working around.

"Will people have to wear a mask at the pool? We don't know for sure. We don't know what our capacity will be," Whisler said.

There will probably need to be limited pool furniture or none at all, she said. Locker rooms will also likely be closed.

With safety the No. 1 priority, the agency is looking at the best ways to do that for both staff and participants.

"I wish I had a magic ball to tell me when we're going to open," Whisler said. If I've learned anything through this, it's better not to make too many plans ahead. Once we get the go-ahead, we'll work as quickly as we can to get open for the public.

She said South Suburban was still looking at new guidelines released recently by Gov. Jared Polis that covered personal training at pools.

This story is from Rocky Mountain PBS, a nonprofit providing news and information across Colorado over the air and online. Used by permission. For more, and to support Rocky Mountain PBS, visit rmpbs.org.

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