FLORENCE — At a time when city pools would be opening for summer, Parks and Recreation Department workers are monitoring the latest updates in the COVID-19 pandemic to see when — or if — they will open this year.
The pool at the Handy Recreation Center is ready to open, while the Royal Avenue Recreation Center pool is undergoing repairs, Parks and Recreation Director Tina Kitchens said.
Workers are repairing a leak at the Royal Avenue pool, so even if they could open it would be a couple of weeks before the pool would be ready, Kitchens said.
She has taken part in Zoom meetings with other parks and recreation officials in Alabama to discuss the matter.
"Everybody's in the same boat across the state," Kitchens said.
She said guidelines that would have to be followed are so restrictive that maintaining them would a challenge if the pools open.
Those include keeping pool capacity at no more than 50%, maintaining social distancing, and limiting the amount of people in the pool area, Kitchens said.
"There's also cleaning protocol for the pool and restrooms to consider," she said. "At membership pools like the YMCAs, you can control lap swimming but we can't open a pool to the public and say have at it.
"At some pools, they are even discussing having to have a parent with the child, but even with parents with them it's tough to maintain guidelines."
There also is the matter of people touching gates and ladder handles, Kitchens said.
The city has hired some lifeguards, but put additional hirings on hold.
"We don't want to hire people and them not be able to have a job," she said.
Another issue involves lifeguards getting certified, Kitchens said.
"People are struggling to get lifeguards because nobody's been able to hold certification classes," she said. "The Red Cross extended certifications by 120 days for those who are already certified."
The Handy pool is in District 1 Councilwoman Kaytrina Simmons' district. She said the pool, which recently has undergone upgrades, including new picnic tables, is a big part of summer in her district.
"In the west Florence area, for the kids it's one of the main attractions during the summer," she said. "I hate it that it's not available right now, but safety is always first."