By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA — This Friday (one day after Philadelphia schools wrap up their academic year) will bring the opening of the first of Philadelphia’s seventy outdoor public swimming pools.
In the meantime, with temperatures forecast in the 90s all week, city officials are urging sweltering residents to check out the “spraygrounds” at various locations around the city.
Between this Friday and the end of June, city recreation officials plan to open all of the city’s 70 outdoor and four indoor public pools.
“We traditionally open the first pool on the first day the kids are off from the school district,” explains deputy recreation commissioner Leo Dignam. “Kids are done on Thursday, so we open our first pool Friday. Saturday, we’ll open another eight pools. Then, starting next week, every day, six to ten pools will open until we have them all open by July 1st.”
With temperatures expected in the 90s all week, Dignam says families don’t have to wait for the pools to open: the city already has had eighty so-called “spraygrounds” up and running since June 1st.
“Because it will be so hot today, residents can find those eighty spray pools and spraygrounds around. We have them listed on our web site,” Dignam says.
That site is phila.gov/map, then click on “Cooling Centers.”
Regarding the pools, Dignam says, one key is making sure each pool is fully staffed. A workforce of more than 350 trained lifeguards is required to cover all the city pools.
“That’s our biggest challenge,” Dignam tells KYW Newsradio, “because of the training that has to go into lifeguards — a six-week course. So it takes a while for that to get done. We really start this in January. But I would say we have about 75 percent of the lifeguards ready to go.”
Last year’s city pool season was marred by the drowning death of a boy who’d been at a city pool as part of a private day camp. Dignam says the city has since instituted new procedures, including swim tests for all campers and on-site training for camp staff. He says 255 private camps and 130 city-run camps use city pools.