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Pools treading water as demand for swimming lessons surges on West Shore

Offerings have nearly doubled since the winter, but parents still struggling to get kids in lessons
The Juan de Fuca pool will be full of kids learning to swim this summer, but others may be left without a spot in swimming lessons. (Courtesy West Shore Parks and Recreation)

Despite ramping up hiring and offering more spots, West Shore pools are still struggling to meet the demand for swimming lessons in the area.

The number of spaces in the summer are nearly double what was offered in this past winter when staffing shortages were at their peak, according to Katherine Beck, aquatic and fitness coordinator with West Shore Parks and Recreation.

In the summer of 2019, there were 193 lessons offered with 716 spots. That dropped to 180 lessons and 392 spots during the summer of 2021 with pandemic restrictions ,and has picked up steadily since then as staffing numbers have recovered and restrictions loosened.

This upcoming summer session, 310 lessons will be offered with 1,054 spots.

West Shore Parks and Recreation is still looking to expand, noting: “As with other employers in the service industry, staff who were laid off when facilities closed in the early months of the pandemic moved on to other sectors. Pools re-opened under strict safety protocols, which made it difficult to conduct aquatic training and certification programs.”

Beck says their priority is getting as many people trained and hired as possible. A new position of junior instructor has also been created. They will assist the main instructor with the teaching of swim classes, allowing class sizes to be bigger.

Tracey Roarty’s seven-year-old Katie missed out on this latest round of swimming lessons, which were booked up within minutes. Roarty has been registered for lessons with West Shore Parks and Recreation but switched to private lessons and the YMCA prior to the pandemic, but then everything was shut down. Now they’re left waiting for the next block in July.

But Roarty says the gap during COVID means Katie would be back at square one with her swimming skills, and that this impacts family outings knowing she may not always be safe.

Roarty said lessons should be prioritized in schools – she’s from the UK, where swimming lessons are commonly offered as part of the physical education curriculum.

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