As people were forced inside due to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, many were able to reinvest themselves in their hobbies and interests. Families were able to spend more time together, and folks focused more on their mental and physical health.
Sadly, not all hobbies and recreational activities were able to be fulfilled, as the Tunkhannock Area and Elk Lake school districts closed the swimming pools last March.
Each school traditionally held open swims times for the public to enjoy themselves, as well as water aerobics and swimming lessons.
But because of the coronavirus, each school was instructed to shut down its aquatic operations.
The ripple effect of closures, have been felt throughout the districts, as well as the communities.
Tunkhannock’s athletic secretary, Colleen Mislevy, said the district has lost a significant amount of revenue, as they were charging $2 per person, per hour, for open swim when they shut down.
“The money goes into our general fund,” she clarified.
Also, the Tunkhannock community is not able to hold pool parties and that is a huge blow to the fund.
“We have kids that are lifeguards during the school year, and they have not been able to work here,” She added. “They haven’t complained too much, but their certification is only good for a limited time.”
Mislevy, who is also the district safety secretary, said that the pool was opened for the local ambulance dive and rescue teams to train and retain their skills and services.
Tim Mislevy, the Tiger’s boys varsity swimming coach, added that the age group swimming program has also suffered setbacks.
“The district is not allowing any outside community events until at least January. That includes the Tigersharks,” he said. “I know some other districts have been able to practice, but it is all dependent on their districts.”
A little up the road in Springville, Elk Lake is experiencing the same issues.
Pool manager Marion Austin surmises that the athletic and activity fund has “lost a drastic amount of deposits” since the district closed the pool eight months ago.
“We charged $2 a person for each of our programs, including open swim, water fitness, and adult swimming times,” she said. “Between that and our very popular party rentals, we could deposit anywhere between $6-10 thousand every four months.”
Elk Lake also lost out on providing the community with its Red Cross swim lessons and lifeguard certification classes.
“I know the lifeguards are frustrated- they like to work, and they enjoy the work they are doing,” said Austin. “But they understand the situation. Most of them are on the swim team, so they know all the protocols we are putting in place.”
Cadence DeGregory, an Elk Lake junior who has been lifeguarding for a little over a year at the pool, said she isn’t working any other job right now and expects to go back to work when things return to normal.
“It’s sad to not have any open swims or aerobics going (on) because I quite enjoy spending time on deck and seeing everybody enjoy themselves,” said DeGregory, who is also on the Warrior’s swim team. “I just hope that everybody is being safe and are excited to come back to the pool- like I will be- when it opens to the public again.”
The Warrior’s pool did host a handful of water aerobic classes recently, but has ended that run.
“We normally ran five classes a week, with anywhere between 15-20 participants. The Area Agency on Aging helped fund the class,” Austin explained. “We offered two Saturday morning classes, with only 15 people, so we could adhere to the CDC recommendations. Every person had a health screen, including temperatures and questions on symptoms, each time.”
In concert with Tunkhannock’s guidelines, however, the Guppies will not be able to practice.
“Our age group team training falls under community events, unfortunately. And since they cannot practice, we also cancelled the water aerobics program to be fair across the board,” she added.
Austin, along with Patsy Gesford, ran the courses, maintaining social distancing at all times, but now Austin is able to do dryland workouts with her faithful friends.
“The Agency on Aging has been wonderful, and helped in part to fund a zoom session for me to do workouts with some of the people who came to the water fitness classes,” she said. “We have about 12-15 people per Zoom call, all 60 years old and older.”
Elk Lake’s aquatic center underwent some scheduled maintenance this summer, so the pandemic shutdown actually coincided with the repairs.
Both schools incorporate swimming into its physical education curriculum, and Elk Lake has been able to continue with that.
Austin said, “The pool itself is a sanitizing agent, with all its chlorine in it. In the first quarter, we had grades three through five here, and the high school girls are in their second week of classes now. They all wear masks in the locker room and on deck. Equipment is kept minimal only because of time constraints between uses, we wouldn’t be able to properly clean it all between classes.”
She also clarified that the teachers and staff are diligently following the CDC guidelines and keeping their heads above water to prevent transmission.
Tournaments and invitational meets, including the Greg Chew Memorial at Elk Lake and the Ernie Shartle Invitational at Tunkhannock, are still in the shallow end of planning. Each event honors a former coach of the respective program, and Mislevy is hopeful they can continue as planned.
Tim Mislevy concluded, “As of now, we can only cross our fingers and hope. We will wait to see what happens.”
“Everything is on a week to week basis. We have been very fortunate, as Elk Lake has not seen any COVID cases or contact cases. We have been able to remain open and running,” Austin finished.
Both the Tigers and Warriors kick off the 2020-21 season later this week, as PIAA begins winter practices on Friday.