Rey Salazar; his son Rey, 1; and his niece Annabella, 7; play in the water at Woodlawn Lake Pool. The City plans to open public pools and start youth summer programs soon.
Rey Salazar; his son Rey, 1; and his niece Annabella, 7; play in the water at Woodlawn Lake Pool in 2018. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

As coronavirus transmission remains low and the vaccination rate rises, the City plans to open public pools and start youth summer programs soon.

The coronavirus pandemic shut pools down all of last year, but this year, most will open. Interim Parks and Recreation Manager Sara Sharp told City Council members Wednesday that only 18 out of the 26 of the City’s pools will open this summer, and start dates will be staggered. On May 8, six pools will open. On June 5, another six will open. And the final third will open on July 2.

That could change depending on how many lifeguards the Parks and Recreation Department can hire.

“We’re constantly hiring, but the opening of the pools will be contingent on us being able to do it safely because that’s the only way we can open those pools,” Sharp said.

All 18 pools will be open on weekends but have varied hours during the week.

The Parks and Recreation Department will also begin signing up area children between the ages of 6 and 14 for summer programs, operating at 21 parks and nine school sites. In a typical year, summer programs run for eight weeks between June and August, Sharp said. However, this year, the Parks Department kept in mind changing school schedules when planning its summer programming.

“We of course want to make sure the program is accessible for parents so when the kids are out of school we have that time for kids to come into our centers, and we’ll keep them busy and active,” Sharp said. “So this year … the school district started some fun calendar for us. Some schools get out at the end of May, some go through the middle of June, which is really late for us.”

Some of the summer program locations will start on June 7, others on June 14, and even more on June 28, Sharp said. The department hopes that having staggered program start dates will allow parents to enroll their children whenever the school semester may end for them.

The Parks department will still be enforcing coronavirus prevention measures, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, Sharp said. Last summer, the Parks department was able to run day camps at eight different locations in partnership with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, which aided in establishing public health protocols.

Because of social distancing and the fact that there are fewer locations in use than in previous years for the Parks and Recreation youth summer program, the department anticipates enrolling fewer kids than usual, Director Homer Garcia III said.

“We typically have between 35 to 40 school sites, so we are significantly reduced in the number of school sites,” he said. “The other thing is we’ve reduced the quantity per site because we’re trying to be mindful of being able to social distance. So where a site may pre-pandemic had been at, say, 125, we may be at 62 [kids].”

Like before, if the program fills up before families who want to enroll their kids can do so, they will be put on a waitlist, Garcia added.

Families will pay a reduced fee for the summer program, said Nikki Ramos, assistant director of Parks and Recreation. The enrollment fee is $25 for one child, $40 for two, and $55 for three or more. That includes all of the program activities and meals, she said.

“Last year was free,” Ramos said. “This year we decided it was best to just offer the reduced fee with no income verification required.”

The signup for youth summer programs has not opened yet, but more details can be found on the Parks and Recreation website here. For people who want to register in-person, they can go to any of the 12 currently open community centers or the Ron Darner Headquarters located at 5800 Enrique Barrera Parkway.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.