Behind the Scenes at the Pools
The Park District’s outdoor pool season has begun! Flick and Roosevelt Aquatic Centers have opened with regular season hours, so don’t forget to buy your summer pool pass!
Have you ever wondered what goes into running an aquatic center? In order to provide a fun and safe experience for patrons, Park District staff begin preparing the pools several months in advance. In order to make accommodations for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, preparation and training for this summer began in March.
The work is divided among several teams who assist and coordinate with each other as needed. Park Services staff begin the process of setting up the facilities, starting with cleaning the empty pools, filling them with water, setting up lounge chairs, and organizing the concession stands.
David Anderson, the Park District’s information technology specialist, oversees this aspect of the preparation process along with Sean King, director of information technology.
David is responsible for every piece of equipment that utilizes technology. He begins by checking on every computer, receipt printer, credit card machine, microphone and phone, among other electronics, to make sure they are ready for use during the summer. This ensures that staff will be able to print passes, check patrons in and make announcements to the pools during the day.
His work is not limited to any specific type of technology, and he finds himself doing whatever is needed to get the pools ready for opening day. The tasks David completes range from climbing up to the Wi-Fi disks with a laptop to ensure the internet connection is stable, to fixing the compressor in the ice cream machines if they break. When maintenance staff is unavailable to climb up to the roof of a building to retrieve stray objects, he does it himself.
David also trains new and returning staff to use the Park District’s RecTrac application, which is used to admit patrons to the pools. He says the amount of configuration necessary to use the application is a lot of work, and one of the most rewarding aspects of his job is seeing staff succeed as he trains them. This has been especially true since the implementation of COVID-19 precautions, which include a transition away from touchscreen technology.
“One thing I like here at the Park District is consistency,” David said. After the onset of the pandemic, he felt that much of what he had considered part of a yearly routine was upended. However, going into the second outdoor pool season of
the pandemic, he is looking forward to the summer ahead. “I feel like everyone is prepared for a better summer. We want to do what we can for the community, and one of the special things we hear from people is their experiences at the pool during the summer.”
The preparation process includes other staff as well. Managers and assistant managers sign up for time slots of three to four hours to prepare the pools, and administrators behind the scenes bag uniforms, put together binders for the paperwork that pool management necessitates, and schedule shifts.
Due to the limitations of the pandemic, the hiring process has involved mostly online recruiting led by Maggie Cunningham, manager of aquatics. Beginning in March, managers conducted job interviews over Zoom. The Park District is still hiring new lifeguards. Check our job board if you are interested in applying!
Lifeguards are an essential component of pool safety, and the Park District has a thorough training process that prepares them for all kinds of scenarios. All lifeguards are trained to provide first aid to patrons inside and outside of the water. Throughout the summer, lifeguards participate in ongoing training to practice, maintain and refine their skills.
Lifeguards take pride in the importance of the work they do, and forming bonds with each other, beyond the time they spend working, is one of the highlights of a typical summer season. For Courtney Thomas, aquatics supervisor, the impact that COVID-19 had on the social aspect of the job was noticeable. However, she is proud of the way that staff has maintained a positive outlook while still adhering to safety precautions. “Everyone has adjusted really well and we’re all excited to see things transition back to the way they were. For now, everyone has adapted and gone with the flow which is really nice.”
As a former lifeguard for the Park District who left at the start of the pandemic, I wondered how staff and management handled the many added difficulties of keeping patrons safe and happy while accounting for the risk posed by the virus.
Lifeguards were trained to prioritize patron health (as well as their own) before the pandemic even began, so only minor adjustments to safety procedures were necessary. For example, lifeguards now put on safety gloves at the beginning of physical contact with a patron requiring medical assistance, rather than later in the process. In addition to the standard medical equipment, they have extra materials available for use in the event that a patron or staff member displays symptoms of COVID-19. All staff continue to wear masks.
Don’t forget to get your pool pass so you can have some fun in the sun at our pools! The summer has begun and the pool is a fantastic place to enjoy it. We hope you’ll join us for another season of fun!
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