COVID-19 precautions limit pool access for some Indiana swim clubs
Bloomington, Indiana – Organizers with a popular, independent swim club in Bloomington are trying to convince Monroe County Community Schools officials to restore their access to school facilities for practice and training.
Jody L. Madeira, president of Indiana Swim Club, says the club has enjoyed decades of free access to pools at places like Bloomington North and Bloomington South High School.
“The pools here are community assets, and we actually share them quite amicably among a number of swim groups,” Maeira said.
Ongoing renovations at Bloomington North have recently limited pool access, and members of the club had hoped to be able to start using the pool facility at Bloomington South by now. However, officials with Monroe County Community Schools are not allowing any outside groups to use school facilities due to concerns over COVID-19.
“Even though other sports are practicing, basketball is now practicing indoors, volleyball is practicing indoors, they’re allowing in spectators,” Madeira said. “If that is safe, why can’t we be safe?”
“MCCSC is not taking or accepting any outside groups request to use our facilities due to our immense responsibility in the areas of cleaning and contact tracing,” Superintendent Judith DeMuth said in a statement. “We are trying to keep our facilities as clean as possible for our students and staff and limit exposure for which we cannot be responsible.”
While Madeira understands the need for caution, she points out that several other school districts across central Indiana have started reopening facilities to swim clubs. The Center Grove Aquatics Club recently worked out a deal to regain access at their home pool at Center Grove High School. The arrangement includes the club providing a plan that includes cleaning during usage and between groups of swimmers. The club must also provide their own school-approved cleaning products.
By contrast, the Washington Township Swim Club is still struggling to gain access to the pool facility at North Central High School. Club officials say discussions with school officials are ongoing.
Madeira says Indiana Swimming Club has submitted a four-page COVID-19 safety plan to MCCS officials and the Monroe County Health Department.
“Our swimmers are going up to the lanes with masks, entering the water, putting the masks in bags right before they enter the water,” she said. “We’re contact tracing, we’re taking temperatures, we’re doing all of the safety precautions.”
The school district has not changed their position as of Wednesday afternoon. This Monday, the district will move into their “phase green,” which will allow for in-person classes in all schools five days a week.
Amanda Schroader, whose 9-year old son, Max, swims with ISC, says she’s concerned about the affect this overall situation could have on young student athletes.
“We talk about the whole child. The whole child includes their mental health and their physical health,” Schroeder explained. “And for these kids in the club, part of that is swimming.”
The club recently started an online petition directed at Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton. Madeira says she would like Mayor Hamilton to facilitate discussions between MCCS and ISC. A representative for Hamilton said the mayor is aware of the situation and has heard the club’s concerns. However, the mayor says the decision rests with the Monroe County Community Schools Administration.
In the meantime, Madeira says ISC is paying roughly $10,000 per month to rent pool space and time at a local YMCA. Fundraisers to cover those costs won’t last forever, she said.
“If we cannot get into our pools, and we crumble as a club, I don’t know what the future of Bloomington swimming is going to be.”