Expand Access to the Kennedy Swimming Pools
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The Kennedy Elementary School’s two indoor pools are an incredible resource for the community, but their availability for the City’s physical education swim program and the public during the school year is quite restricted. With a population of 80,000 residents, Somerville only has about 12 hours of regularly-scheduled family swim per week in our local indoor pools (the Kennedy and the YMCA pools). Overall, Somerville seems to have few resources for kids, especially those between ages 8 and 18. We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the City of Somerville and the Somerville Public School District collaborate to improve access to these outstanding facilities for Somerville residents. We offer the following specific suggestions.
INCREASE PUBLIC FAMILY SWIM AND LAP SWIM HOURS
Particularly during the school year, the Kennedy pools remain unused for large portions of the week. The existing hours for family swim and lap swim are very narrow and at inconvenient times (for example, too early in morning, or too close to a young child’s naptime or bedtime). We suggest:
- The pools should be open for family swim and lap swim on Friday afternoons and evenings, and all afternoon and evening on Saturday and Sundays.
- During the school year, the pool should open at noon on half-Wednesdays for family swim and lap swim.
IMPROVE THE NUMBER OF SWIMMING CLASSES AND THE SIGNUP PROCESS
During the school year, swimming classes are only offered M/W, Tu/Th, and weekly on Saturday mornings. There are not nearly enough classes for the number of interested families, and enrolling is difficult. We suggest:
- Twice-weekly classes should be added at 4:30 on M/W, not just on Tu/Th; and at 3:45 pm on M/W and Tu/Th. Many families who are able will switch to 3:45, freeing up space in 4:30 and 5:15 PM classes for families whose parents are rushing over from work.
- Include level 1Medium classes, not just 1Low and 1High, at all weekday classes. This will make it easier for students to progress in their technique during the weekday classes.
- Add once-a-week classes on Sunday mornings, similar to existing Saturday classes, which conflict with many kids’ soccer games or other sports.
- Move the monthly, weekday swim class signup period to later in the day. In recent months, the available weekday classes have filled up within the first half hour of the 3:00 PM signup period. Signups from 5:00 to 6:30 PM would be more fair for parents with daytime jobs and would remain convenient for people finishing up earlier afternoon classes.
- Offer a streamlined, unified enrollment process for Saturday ‘water babies’ and age 4+ classes. Currently, many families with two children must stand in two different and very long lines to enroll each child. Often, by the time the parent gets into the second line, there are no more spots in those classes.
- Implement an online enrollment system, with lottery if necessary, to help to fairly allocate spaces if enough additional classes cannot be added.
IMPROVE ACCESS TO POOLS FOR OLDER CHILDREN AND ADULTS
The current public access programs for the Kennedy pools focus on adults (lap swim during the school year is only for age 18+) and young children, with classes and family swim mostly in the small pool. Teenagers on the Somerville High School swim team are able to use the large pool, but that pool is not very accessible to other children or teenagers during the school year. The Kennedy pools could serve as a great community resource for older children, teenagers, and the elderly. We suggest:
- Create an after-school swim club at Kennedy, open to students at all public schools (and separate from the Community School’s after school program, which runs programs unique to each school, rather than city-wide). The after-school swim program would have to be robust and well advertised and coordinated, including transportation between different schools. With children of all ages City-wide having access to the Somerville pools, more children may eventually wish to swim competitively on the High School team.
- During the school year, allow teens and tweens to use a few lanes in the large pool during evening lap swim periods.
- On Friday and Saturday evenings, the Kennedy pools could become a popular recreation spot for tweens and teens, with open swim areas in addition to lap swim lanes.
- Somerville could offer senior citizen-friendly activities in the small pool, such as water aerobics or Aqua Zumba, in early evenings and on weekends.
The above changes will require increased resources—funding and staffing—as well as more elaborate logistical planning. A comprehensive study of the needs of different user groups in the City could help determine the most equitable and beneficial pool schedules and generate ideas for activities. The schedules must also take into account the Somerville High School swim team and other swimming programs that depend on the Kennedy pools. However, creating more access to our currently-limited, but high-quality pools is critical to meeting the needs of our community and, we believe, well worth the planning efforts required.
In closing, we would like to commend the existing swimming class teaching staff at the Kennedy Pools. Their organization, enthusiasm, patience, and sense of fun have taught so many children to swim. The staff has tried hard to accommodate more families, but they have reached a limit due to available staffing and pool schedules.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
If you agree with our points, please sign this petition. On May 8, 2018, the petition organizer, Diana Marsh, will download all the names of signers (but not your email addresses), and compile them into one master email to be sent to the Board of Aldermen, the Mayor, the School Committee, and the School Superintendent, showing our support for improvements to swimming programs.
And please come to the School District’s budget hearing at the East Somerville Community School Auditorium on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 6:30 to 7:30pm. We would love to get at least five people to speak about swimming access. Looking ahead, we’ll also need people to come to the City’s public hearing on the budget to raise these same issues.
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