Julie Corrigan, director for San Benito Aquatics, gave a presentation on June 22 to the San Benito High School Board of Trustees on the Baler Aquatic Center. She said because of COVID-19 it was a challenge to operate the school facility and that it is the only pool that remained open in Northern California since June 2020.
“We were able to help other pools and facilities in San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Pacific Grove to open,” she said. “We were able to offer all of our programs in a modified format to meet state-mandated COVID guidelines.”
Costs of providing services significantly increased while there was a shortage of lifeguards across the country.
“To top it off, we didn’t have a single case of COVID exposure at the facility over the year,” she said.
She said the board, the county health department, the Board of Supervisors, and Assemblyman Robert Rivas were instrumental in getting it open.
The programs offered from June 2020 to present included high school boys and girls varsity water polo, swimming, PE, and special education pool. Other activities included parent participation infant/toddler classes, community lap swim, swimming lessons, lifeguard training, family swim, SBA water polo, YMCA camp, and SBA swim team.
Precautions were taken through the period using masks and face shields for instructors, mask and shields when out of the water, only one person swimming per lane, no spectators on the pool deck, and one parent per swim lesson participant.
She said COVID restrictions limited pool capacity to 10% for a year. The number of people using the competition pool at one time were reduced from 629 to 17, and only eight people versus 254 could use the swim pool. She said all programs required double the amount of time in the water in order to serve everyone.
As COVID restrictions are lifted, she said the center will return to full capacity and increase access to aquatic activities in the community. There are plans to have lifeguard staff available during school hours and build water exercise classes, adult swim lessons, and a master swim program.
Corrigan told the board that 10 lifeguards were certified during a recent clinic, including two from Hollister. She said people came from as far as Sacramento to try out because there are no lifeguard classes being held anywhere closer.
“We’ve been fortunate to be able to certify lifeguards,” she said. “People have to be strong swimmers to pass that class and receive certification, and that’s been part of the problem.”
It will be very busy at the center this summer, she said.
“This past week we had 240 children taking swim lessons,” she said. “We have a water polo program going on for all ages. Swim team and lap time go on throughout the week. And as long as we have enough lifeguards on the weekends, we will open for a few hours for family swim.”
For information, go to sanbenitoaquatics.org or the Baler Aquatics Facebook page. There’s also a bulletin board outside the gates with details on programs.
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