Local community pools reopen for 2021 summer season

Through the institution of multiple health regulations, community pool staff are making sure the pools can safely open this summer for patrons. The opening of the pools won’t affect just patrons, but swim teams and concession owners as well.


***Life lessons…**Practicing for the reopening of the pools, lifeguard Kevin Lutz (right) instructs lifeguard Dan Malley (left) and lifeguard Danielle Rush on techniques for proper first aid at the Souderton Pool before it opens for the summer. The Souderton Pool will open Memorial Day weekend with the Harleysville Pool opening later on June 5. Arrowhead photo by Ben Shadle.*

To open safely during the summer season, staff at local pools around the community are aiming to make the pools safe for patrons through the placement of health regulations for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier in the spring, it was announced that pools around the community such as the Harleysville and Souderton pools would reopen for the summer season.
With the announcements, came a set of guidelines that patrons and staff must follow in order for the pools to operate safely amidst the pandemic.
“I think this is going to be a really positive step for our community. It’s going to give the kids something to do, it’s going to keep them busy and just get us out of the house,” Harleysville resident Jennifer Shadle said.
Due to the potential health risks, the pools had to close last year which put a dent in many families’ summer plans.
The pools will be prioritizing social distancing measures and the use of face coverings to ensure a safe pool experience for patrons.
Souderton borough manager P. Michael Coll said that it is a matter of maintaining a level of safety so that they can avoid COVID-19 outbreaks, which they anticipate won’t happen.
A lot of the regulations put in place will be based on the willingness of the patrons to follow the guidelines to make the experience comfortable for everyone.
“We are primarily going to ask the patrons to take voluntary steps,” Coll said. “We may encourage, but I’m not too sure that we want to take strong enforcement action.”
Another priority will be limiting the number of people in the pools at a time.
Both the Souderton and Harleysville pool plan to limit the number of daily admissions and favoring memberships, which Coll said would create “a steady flow of patrons in and out of the facility.”
While the regulations will affect patrons within the facility, the duties of lifeguards within the facilities will remain mostly the same. Coll said that the lifeguards will mostly be following safety protocols moreso than COVID-19 protocols.
Despite all the occupational changes that came with the pandemic, the itinerary for lifeguards didn’t see a substantial level of change.
“The American Red Cross still strictly requires classroom and skills sessions as well as sticking to their 2-year certifications,” health teacher Lauren Whiteside said.
Concession for the Harleysville and Souderton pool will be provided by the “Cool Eats Snack Shop,” who operate at four other locations around Montgomery and Bucks County along with marking their debut at Souderton this year.
The snack shop will be instituting their own set of guidelines for both the customers and the employees working at the stand.
According to Cool Eats head manager Brooke McCoy, employees will undergo training for washing their hands and sanitization.
McCoy said that employees will also be following a “15-minute rule” or “when use” rule in which every 15 minutes or whenever a surface or tool is used, they will be cleaned.
The snack shop will be asking their customers and employees to wear masks, adapt more contactless options for payment and will switch from serving food on trays, to using paper bags or foil.
“We don’t want something to go out, be handled, and come back in,” McCoy said.
Designated areas for eating will also be put in place for customers after purchasing food.
“We are going to have tables set up so they can eat at a table or they can go back to their chairs,” Coll said.
The reopening of the pools will also allow local swim teams to host meets and competitions.
During the pandemic, teams had to make major adjustments to where, when and how they swam which brought on a plethora of challenges for the leagues.
“Things would be moving along and we would think we were in a good place and our athletes were getting back in shape and then there would be a shut down and we would have to start all over again,” Souderton Dolphins president Kristin Kleppinger said. “It was frustrating, but more so for our swimmers who were working so hard to get back to where they were last March.”
Kleppinger said that the swimmers and divers are looking forward to returning to the pools this summer and will continue to keep safety in mind during competitions as they return to the blocks.
Come Memorial Day weekend when the local mask mandate will be lifted, spectators will also be allowed to return and watch the swimmers and divers.
As regulations are slowly beginning to lift, Coll said that there will probably be a gradual lessening of restrictions within the pool. The pools will be able to operate over the summer but will still require regulations between the patrons and the staff.
“We really are looking at our patrons to voluntarily comply and do the right thing,” Coll said. “Hopefully, people have the right frame of mind when they go in and respect the concerns of others.”