Worthington pools remain closed as city reopens some facilities

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
Swiminc Inc., which runs Worthington Pools for the community on the grounds of Thomas Worthington High School, has canceled all activities for 2020 at the facility's indoor and outdoor pools because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Pool waters in Worthington have been stilled for 2020.

Swiminc Inc., which runs Worthington Pools for the community on the grounds of Thomas Worthington High School, has canceled all activities for 2020 at the facility's indoor and outdoor pools because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"As you can imagine, planning the operations of a public pool is a challenge in this COVID-19 environment, as circumstances change often and quickly, but it's clear that social distancing will be part of life in the Worthington community for the foreseeable future," Mike Keller, president of Swiminc's board of directors, wrote in a letter to the community May 19. "Adhering to official guidelines for social distancing for public pools – guidelines that are new this year and are still a work in progress – would escalate our operating costs while reducing our facility capacity by as much as 50%."

Public and private swimming pools were among the facilities that had been permitted to start reopening May 26 with coronavirus-related modifications in place, per state orders announced by Gov. Mike DeWine.

Meanwhile, the two pools inside the Worthington Community Center remain closed until further notice, said city spokesperson Anne Brown.

"It could come as a later-phased approach, but we're just not prepared to make any announcements on dates or whether it would open at this point," Brown said May 27.

However, the Community Center's fitness floor is open on a limited basis, and other facilities have reopened, as well.

The city began accepting online reservations for the fitness floor Monday, June 1, with the building opening Wednesday, June 3.

According to the city's website, worthington.org, the fitness floor's first-phase hours are in 75-minute time slots from 6 to 11:45 a.m. and from 2:15 to 8 p.m. The facility will be closed from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. for cleaning.

"During phase 1, reservations will only be accepted for Worthington residents and members, ages 12 years and older," the website said. "Since March 16, all memberships have been on hold, and no electronic membership fees have been processed. Members will now have the option of reinstating their current membership or pay $8 for each 75-minute time slot.

"Patrons are responsible for practicing safe distancing while in the building, wiping down equipment, and are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings when entering and exiting the facility. The building will be closed after each 75-minute time slot for 15 minutes for cleaning, and the doors will remain locked during those times."

Safety guidelines and regular updates are available at worthington.org.

In addition to the pools, the locker rooms, child-care area, art studio, open gyms, pottery studio, playgrounds, group fitness classes and front desk will remain closed during the first phase of the reopening, according to the website.

Later phases and associated openings have not been determined, as city officials are looking to DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health for further guidance. The city website said the next phases would be "dependent on our ability to safely bring back and meet the new safety guidelines."

Several other recreation facilities reopened May 27, with new guidelines for safe use. They included tennis and pickleball courts and the local skate park, Brown said. Godown Park and its dog facility opened June 1, she said.

Ball diamonds, soccer fields and basketball courts remain closed under further notice, as do the Selby Shelter House, outdoor restrooms and the Griswold Center, Brown said.

Meanwhile, although summer camps have been canceled and fees returned, some programs might still be possible for the upcoming season, she said.

"Once it became apparent we couldn't present the camps as originally planned, we canceled them and refunded the money," Brown said. "So now we're basically taking a fresh look at what we might be able to provide under the new protocols and health requirements."

Darren Hurley, director of the Worthington Parks and Recreation Department, said city leaders feel comfortable with the restrictions and that people can safely enjoy the facilities that have reopened.

"The challenge right now is people have a wide range of comfort levels and opinions on what should be open and what should remain closed," Hurley said. We have had some complaints about things not being open or being opened too slowly, but for the most part our residents understand we are erring on the side of safety and want to get things opened up but in the safest way possible.

"As we've announced the openings, we have received many compliments that we are putting a lot of thought and caution into our approach, so we believe we are on the right track in starting to open things back up but doing it carefully and responsibly."

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary