Joseph Morin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

WINCHESTER – While spring brought summer, but no relief from pandemic restrictions, municipal staff have begun preparations for when the municipal swimming pools in Winchester and Chesterville can be brought back as a fun summer activity.

The two pools are slated to open with restrictions on June 14 when Stage one of the opening up process begins.

The North Dundas Director of Recreation and Culture, Meaghan Meerburg said at the municipality’s May 27 council meeting, “Throughout the stay-at home order, our Recreation & Culture Department team has worked hard to complete required repairs and maintenance to our 2 municipal pools, in preparation for these facilities to open mid-June.”

The challenge now is to get the pools ready and that includes staff while the municipality waits to hear from the Eastern Health Unit when they can safely open the pools and under what kind of restrictions.

Nine fulltime lifeguards, two head lifeguards and a pool coordinator have been hired in anticipation of a busy swimming season.

This brings the total number of pool staff to 12, however while the municipality waits for confirmation of the swimming season they have lost three of their hired staff to other jobs.

Of the remaining nine full-time staff members, including the pool coordinator, only two are fully certified to lifeguard and teach swim lessons.

One of these two fully certified staff members is the pool coordinator, who is typically occupied with organizing pool staffing, registrations and activities, as opposed to being on deck to lifeguard and instruct.

Meerburg said, “Only two of the current seven spare lifeguards are fully certified. All of the other full-time and spare staff require either full certification or recertification, before the pools open for the season.”

Due to the Stay-At-Home order, there are no (re)certification courses scheduled.

The City of Cornwall is planning to host a course once the order is lifted and will advise municipalities in SD&G once the course is scheduled.

“If and when the province allows public pools to reopen, the official opening date will be dependent upon whether we still have an adequate number of full-time pool staff in our employment and whether we can get them certified to lifeguard in an expedient manner,” she said.

In order to offer pool services this summer, the municipality will be considering reducing pool operating hours and working with a smaller pool staff team to operate both pools. One idea would be to use maintenance and park labourers to help with pool opening and closing procedures, leaving the pool staff free to supervise the pools which will maximize the open hours.

A pool-operating plan was drafted for this summer, using the proposal that was presented to Council last year, but the municipality does not know how that particular plan will match up to the health units, as yet unannounced health restrictions.  “Staff will await further updates from the province and Eastern Ontario Health Unit, regarding if, when, and how our municipal pools will be able to open,” said Meerburg.