The Oklahoma City Parks and Recreations Department has opened the Will Rogers Family Aquatic Center near Northwest 36th Street and North Portland Avenue after a delay due to city budget cuts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pool staff have a few safety protocols in place.
Pool guests will have their temperatures checked at the door and will be required to fill out paperwork just in case someone catches COVID-19 and they need to do some contact tracing.
Guests will also notice a decreased amount of sunbathing chairs that are spaced out to comply with social distancing guidelines. Lifeguard stands also have a 6-foot barrier around them.
Before the department can open up the city’s other public pools it has to hire more lifeguards.
“We need about 80 lifeguards to facilitate all four of our outdoor facilities,” said Chris Lucas, the Unit Operations Supervisor for the Parks and Recreation department. “At this specific moment we have 27 cleared lifeguards. The good news is we have all those individuals in our hiring process, they just haven’t been cleared yet.”
When COVID-19 hit the state, Oklahoma City had to make budget cuts and put a hiring freeze into effect. Since that freeze was lifted, Lucas said he and his team have been training lifeguards virtually for two and a half months.
“It’s almost like a class. They’re going over power points, they’re going over a lot of videos, and everything you can do outside of the water when it comes to curriculum. And then there are X amount of hours they have to do in the water to make sure they are safety certified.”
The Department said guests are not required to wear face masks and social distance, but it is strongly encouraged. However, lifeguards are required to wear face masks.
“We actually do training just on mask movement because it’s brand new to lifeguarding in general,” said Lucas. “They look like a scarf, but then you can pull them back up over your nose. So we have those and we got them all branded for our OKC Parks and Aquatics. So those are pretty slick!”
Lucas said the department and the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City are partnering together to help provide more lifeguards at the Northeast and Woodson Community pools.
Will Rogers Family Aquatic Center will be open from 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Then 12 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. At 4:00 p.m. the center will close for an hour for daily sanitization.