KATU Interview-Should Swimming Schools be Essential?

Our interview with KATU. While so much didn’t air due to time, we did talk to KATU at length during the interview. Here are the questions we were asked, most of them not making it to air.  Click the link at the bottom of the page to WATCH the interview!

Q.
What worries you most about swimming schools and swimming lessons being closed?
A.
Statistically we know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-4y old. Drownings increase in the summer months and currently there are no children in Oregon being afforded the ability to take lessons in any public pool. With summer just weeks away and the weather heating up, we are very worried that drownings will increase.

Q.  Are there any other worries you have regarding lessons not being available?
A.
Absolutely.  We have brought to the attention of the officials in charge of this closure the unintended consequences- depending how long the shut down is.  The shut downs will cause a back log of kids needing lessons and fewer openings to give those kids lessons.  This will be across the board; in both public and private offerings.  In addition, life guarding classes are not being offered and this will cause a shortage for lifeguards going forward.  We are also starting to lose highly trained employees to other jobs outside of the aquatic industry and of course, fewer teachers means fewer children can learn to swim.

Q.
What makes you think drownings will increase this summer?
A.
If we look to just Florida, for instance, reports are coming out that drownings have increased 70% in the months of March and April compared to this time last year. We can attribute that to lack of available lessons and parents being more distracted than ever as they work from home. We do not want Oregon to follow in these footsteps!

Q.
Besides lessons, how is the closure of public pools affecting the safety of the general public?
A.
As we head into summer, with public pools closed, families are going to head to rivers and lakes, or put up temporary back yard pools. These are not guarded situations. With public pools closed, no lifeguard training has been able to take place and many of the public services had to be closed. 2 of our vital river rescue and lifejacket loaner programs closed for the summer due to not being able to train their rescue squads. This leaves our rivers even more dangerous than ever.

Q.
Do you feel swimming lessons and swimming schools should be deemed an essential business?
A.
Absolutely! This is about the safety of our kids, all of our kids. It is estimated between there are 10,000 kids in Oregon being taught in swimming schools alone. Add in the thousands in public lessons and this is a recipe for disaster.

Q. Who was involved in writing the letter to the governor?
A.
SWIMBABES along with 5 other swimming schools in Oregon formed a coalition and came together and wrote the letter asking to be deemed essential and opened for lessons immediately.

Q. When did you send the letter and have you heard back from anyone?
A.
The letter was formulated April 29th and sent out May 4th to the Governor, the Health Authority, our cities and our counties. As of today, we have not heard back from anyone. We have no guidelines to re open and we have no idea when this might be.

Q. How do you plan to safely reopen amidst the virus?

A.
Luckily, the CDC has come out with guidelines. In addition to stating that chlorine kills the virus and cannot be passed through the pool itself, they also came out with outside the pool guidelines to keep everyone safe. In addition, we are involved on a national level with the United States Swimming School Association. We have been on weekly calls about best practices to re open. We have watched many swimming schools reopen across the nation, so we have some great models to look at. There are many ways to safely re open. We can reduce class sizes and offer more private options, we can social distance everyone on the deck and have those on deck wearing masks. We can add parents in the pool and create faster in and out times in our lobby areas. We can also disinfect high touch surfaces on a regular basis throughout the day. And lastly, we know who is in our building at all times. We can control who comes in and how many come in at a time.

Q. Is there anything you would like to say to the governor?

A.
I would like to say that swimming lessons, particularly given the time of year this is, need to be essential. Kids do not stop drowning during a pandemic.

Posted in