Copyright 2014 Charleston Newspapers
As students head back to school earlier in the year, many city and county pools in the area are being forced to close earlier in the year than ever before.
Lynn Watts, deputy director of recreation for the city of Charleston, said the North Charleston and King Center pools closed after Aug. 3 over lack of staffing, and the Kanawha City pool closed for the season Sunday - the day before students in Kanawha County Public schools went back to school.
According to a press release from the city Tuesday, Cato Pool will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday and from that point on, the pool will be open for lap swimming only from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. every day, weather permitting, through Aug. 31.
Lynn Watts, deputy director of recreation for the city of Charleston, said pools have been trending toward closing earlier in the summer over the past few years because schools are trending toward starting earlier in the year. That creates a shortage of lifeguards.
"I know that years ago, pools would always try to go through Labor Day, but it seems every year, school begins earlier, Watts said. "Also, not only high school kids that are lifeguards, but our college kids are going back earlier, too. I think I have enough to get through this weekend for guards, but then I have to see if I have enough to go through next weekend.
Watts said because most lifeguards for city pools are high school or college students, it becomes harder to find enough lifeguards to staff pools after school starts, especially since student lifeguards are often student-athletes and have practices and games to attend on top of completing schoolwork and homework.
The shortened summer is especially being felt at the Waves of Fun Wave Pool in Hurricane. Putnam County Parks and Recreation director Scott Williamson said the county has had to spend upwards of $250,000 the past few years repairing broken pumps and other equipment. Williamson said he was counting on money from the gates this year to offset those unexpected costs, but many factors - such as extended school due to the water crisis and an unusually snowy winter and a mild summer - have led the pool to have a shortened year.
"That bares out a lot of the numbers, Williamson said. "We've had a few thousand less patrons this year than we normally would.
Williamson said the wave pool is typically open for more than 100 days a year. The pool went to weekend-only operation starting this week due to a lack of lifeguards, and he said the pool has only been open 80 days so far - even with no days closed this summer due to inclement weather.
"Typical year for the last five years, we've had 27,000 to 29,000 (people). This year, the last number I saw - and this was a week and a half ago - we were coming in right around 23,800, Williamson said. "Now we're moving into weekends only. Unless we've got some really good weekends, we're going to come in short.
He said the pool could stay open daily through October if he had the staffing, but once students go back to school, it's difficult to get staff even for the weekends. The wave pool is scheduled to run weekends-only through Labor Day.
Williamson said the shortened summer break from schools has also affected the number of people coming in the gates. He said he has watched a steady decline as Cabell and Kanawha county students went back to school.
"We are a regional pool, so we don't just draw locally, we draw regionally, Williamson said. "Cabell County went back last week, and Kanawha this week and Putnam this coming week, so we've been siphoned off for what will be three weeks. Unless we have some really, really nice weekends, we're going to come in more shallow as far as patrons go, coupled with the cooler-like weather.
Waves of Fun, Coonskin Pool and Nitro Pool are scheduled to be open weekends through Labor Day.
End-of-season schedules for area pools:
Cato Pool Friday-Sunday through Aug. 31
Coonskin Pool Weekends until Sept. 1
East Bank Closed for season
Eleanor Pool Closes Thursday
Nitro Pool Weekends after this week until Sept. 1
Shawnee Pool Closes Sunday (tentatively)