‘It will be a difficult task’: Cities look at how to safely reopen public pools

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Public pools and beaches will be allowed to reopen in Arkansas starting May 22.

Usually, North Little Rock would be getting its public pools ready to open by Memorial Day.

“Right now, we’re less than two weeks out and we haven’t begun to start yet,” Terry Hartwick said.

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The coronavirus pandemic has put those plans on hold. With lifeguards and workers still on furlough, parks director Terry Hartwick said opening May 22 would be nearly impossible.

“It’s going to be a process. To get the lifeguards in and get them trained,” he said.

In order to reopen, several social distancing guidelines must be met.

“We’ve got a task in front of us to make sure this is safe,” Hartwick said.

These are the following guidelines that must be met:

  • No entry if fever, symptoms or contact with positive patient
  • 50% capacity
  • 6-foot physical distancing in all areas
  • Fewer entrances to control overcrowding
  • Markings to denote social distancing at slides, diving boards, etc.
  • Disinfect high touch area frequently
  • Move seating areas 6 feet apart
  • Test pool chemistry twice a day

“To keep kids social distancing would be almost a difficult task in itself,” Hartwick said.

He is sitting down with the North Little Rock mayor next week about how they can make social distancing possible, and how to train workers to make sure the pool area stays clean and safe.

“And not just the kids, it’s our staff that we are concerned with, too. That’s going to be something that they’re safe and comfortable with also,” he said.

He also has to figure out how to keep people waiting when the pool is half full.

“Let’s say this [pool’s capacity] is 250. How am I going to know where that 125 is if some parent dropped their child off and it’s at 126, and they can’t come in? It’s going to be a difficult situation,” he said.

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The city of Conway is also meeting next week to lay out a plan for reopening splash pads and pools.