While most Australian industries have suffered due to COVID-19 restrictions, swim schools have been among the hardest hit.
‘I was worried about if COVID would spread from the school to staff. I’m worried about the children and their swimming progress… because they’ve all come back and we’ve had to move a few people down levels,’ says Pietro Scardilli, Aquatic Programs Instructor and Customer Service Officer at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.
Swim schools across the country shut down for 4 months during the pandemic before reopening in July to coincide with the school term.
Since returning to business, student numbers in swim centres have risen.
‘Since we reopened, we were absolutely inundated with enrolments,’ said Scardilli.
‘We’ve noticed more pre-schoolers and babies joining – we’re not sure if parents are more eager for their kids to swim or if it’s because parents are working from home so they have the time to take kids to classes,’ Richard Calahan, director of Carlile Swimming observed.
Calahan found that schools in areas affected by COVID-19 outbreaks have suffered the most.
Signage at Carlile’s Freshwater location (Emily Harper)
‘Our schools on the Northern Beaches weren’t relatively affected, but when we look at our schools in Cherrybrook, Norwest and Carlingford, there were outbreaks in these areas and we noticed it was harder for kids to adjust especially.’
Schools have come up with a multitude of innovative ways to respond to all these changes. At the Carlile Swimming school, parents are booking classes for their children online.
‘Usually our students are given a coloured disc from reception to give to their teacher, but this had to be changed to an online booking programme and customer communication has been mainly online,’ said manager of operations Michael Yoemans.
COVID adjustments at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre (Emily Harper)
Supervisors have been given more duties.
‘They have always had to ensure change rooms are in working order, but now they need to be especially careful with cleaning doorknobs, shower buttons and equipment,’ Yoemans said.
A supervisor at Carlile’s Freshwater location cleans kickboards after class (Emily Harper).
Restrictions have also become a key focus, with Scardilli allowing a maximum of 50 people in his school.
‘We had to do an audit of all spaces to determine exactly how many people could be in each section of our facilities and how many would be allowed in the pools themselves,’ Calahan said.
Looking to the future, Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre hopes to hire more staff.
‘There are many availabilities, so we are looking forward to sorting that out. And we should keep those hand sanitation stands– I think it’s a great practice!’ says Scardilli.
Carlile swim school hopes, ‘There will be no increase in summer drowning stats… first and foremost we want all kids to have a life’.
In short, Michael Yoemans says, ‘We hope that a new wave doesn’t happen again!’
— Story by Emily Harper, additional editing by Lucy Tassell