Milford swim facilities make pandemic accommodations to keep lessons afloat

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

MILFORD — No contact lessons are one of the new options some Milford swimming facilities have introduced as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In these lessons, the instructor has no physical contact with the student throughout the entire lesson.

No-contact lessons are the only option at Aqua Jets Swim Club, a private club, Head Coach Lauren McCann said.

“The students must be able to hold onto the side of the wall and implement instruction without someone holding them,” she said. If they can’t, they can’t take lessons at this time, she said.

Prior to taking a lesson, McCann asks parents if their children can go into the water on their own, without the parent.

“It’s better for the parent to not be involved,” she said.

Aside from parents, instructors are masked and also not allowed in the water. The student’s ability, not their age, is the determining factor, she said.

“Sometimes a 3-year-old can hold themselves up, but typically now it’s 6 and up,” she added.

The Woodruff Family YMCA has taken the opposite approach, mandating that parents or caregivers be in the pool with beginners, and offering private and group lessons. Like Aqua Jets, the instructor remains on the pool deck and wears a mask.

Prior to the pandemic, the instructor was “inches away” from the swim student in the water, Marketing and Communications Director Donna Gill Lisitano said.

According to Lisitano, the size of the group instruction is smaller than it was pre-pandemic. All group lessons have three to five participants, depending on the swim lesson level of the student. Additionally, in a group lesson, both the student and parent need to stay at least six feet away in the water from others who are taking the class.

Iris Walther, whose 6-year-old son Finn has been taking swim classes at the YMCA since he was a baby, noticed some additional recent changes due to the pandemic. When Finn took classes this summer, Walther said all students got a separate storage bin to keep their items in while they were in the pool.

Not being able to watch Finn’s lessons is another change that Walther noticed. Finn is at a stage 4 swim level, and can swim the length of the pool without help. So, for his level, while parents can drop students off and help them get settled in, they cannot remain in the pool area. “Myself and the other two moms used to just watch through the windows from outside the pool.”

Additionally, the showers and changing rooms were closed over the summer.

“It wasn’t really a problem for us, since we have a swim cover-up for our son and have only a five-minute drive home,” she said. “We have to see how it works out now that it’s getting colder.”

Over all, Walther said her son didn’t mind all the changes.

“He’d been going to camp and was used to some of the protocols already anyways,” she said. “I’m a little disappointed that they don’t have a big selection of time slots anymore. Our option for the upcoming swim class was Saturday morning at 8:30, and that was it. They used to have swim classes almost daily.”

Despite all the changes, the swim lessons themselves at Woodruff remain the same, according to Lisitano. The goal of swim lessons, having fun and gaining confidence, also hasn’t changed, she said.

“We are really trying to give a child or adult confidence in the water, and build their stamina,” Lisitano said. Swimming, she said, can be a lifelong love and skill.

“We still want people to be comfortable in the water. It’s still a great exercise,” she said. “We will still offer the programming and keep people healthy and well and active. Swim lessons is the one of the ways of doing that.”