Even swimming will be different when pools reopen The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Even swimming will be different when pools reopen

Even swimming will be different when pools reopen


It’s not easy running a swim school these days.

For one thing, pools have been on lockdown, along with most businesses in Arizona, since March.

Worse, as temperatures rise and school closures make pools at home more tempting to youngsters who don’t know how to swim, the need for swimming lessons gains additional urgency.

So while Lana Whitehead, president and founder of SWIMkids USA in Mesa has used her state-ordered “time off” to enhance her facility, she also is getting more worried about pool drownings.

“We are very concerned about water safety for our youngest citizens,” said Whitehead.

While SWIMkids USA has been sending information to clients “about layers of protection for pool safety,” Whitehead has begun free online lessons – though she said “parents need to install fences around their pools, learn CPR and touch supervision and enroll their children in swimming lessons.”

The online lessons offer “a way for us to stress water safety since May is Water Safety awareness month,” she explained.

“Our instructors are able to show the parents how to execute basic water safety skills while instructing them in home safety protocols. The parents and children seem to enjoy this interaction.”

Whitehead has found a bit of a silver lining in the closures that took effect in mid-March.

“I’ve owned my business for almost 50-years and while I have never experienced anything like this,” she “was committed to finding something positive in the fact that we no longer were hearing the sounds of children learning in our building.”

“I was committed to not only spending my last dollar to keep our wonderful instructors on the payroll,” she added. “I decided the benefit of the closure could be stepping back to see what improvements I could make.”

Whitehead’s facility includes three pools and a gym. When families bring their children to SWIMkids USA once the facility opens again, they will find re-plastered pools, a remodeled reception area, repaved parking lot and upgraded women’s bathroom.

“The staff pitched in to do extensive interior painting and they stained the benches where parents sit,” she said. “They are also excited to see the reaction when children discover that there is a colorful new rock-climbing wall that has been installed in the gym.”

She added the closing enabled staff “to do a deep, thorough cleaning of every area of the building and develop extensive safety protocols for how they would open their doors again and operate under a ‘new normal.’”

Whitehead started teaching children to swim in 1971, driven by the passion to make kids safer after experiencing the tragic drownings of two friends’ toddlers.

She pioneered some of the early swim safety techniques still in use today and has now developed training videos on up-to-date techniques for instructors.

“These instructional videos will go step-by-step and outline the various proven techniques we use to teach children to master both strokes and safety moves,” said Whitehead.

SWIMkids is building a library with the videos that “will ensure that all instructors consistently understand the nuances of every step of the survival skills teaching process,” she added.

While conceding “we would very much rather be teaching children in person right now,” Whitehead also is preparing for the state to allow pools to open, though she has developed a new protocol to comply with social-distancing guidelines.

“When we resume our lessons, we have initiated a strict infectious disease protocol for our staff and clients and this includes physical distancing,” she explained.

“We are placing six-foot demarcations in lines at the check-in for the front desk and there will be six feet between the chairs parents sit in,” she explained.

Moreover, parents will be asked to have their student swimmers ready to jump in since the changing area of the restroom will not be available.

“The swim classes will have to be very small with no more than two or three students per instructor,” she said.

“The teachers will maintain the physical distancing between students as they greet them and on the pool steps and the instructor will be assigned to one zone in the pool to work for their entire shift,” she added, noting only one adult will be allowed to accompany their child in the pool area.

Staff temperatures will be taken when they come to work and they will wear masks and a concierge of sorts will open and close the front door “to minimize touching,” she said.

“High-touch areas will be sanitized every half hour and there are sanitation stations at the front desk with hand sanitizer for clients. The gym will be completely cleaned after each class. The water fountain is covered and we are asking that they bring bottled water,” Whitehead said.

All the new routines will be prominently displayed in the lobby so there’s no mistaking that even learning to swim is different in the post-pandemic world. 

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