There has been much discussion on social media in the last few days and many questions Board and Committee members have received, so I and others thought it would be useful to provide some real detailed background and perspective on the pool and gym situation. As you all know COVID-19 and government restrictions have not allowed us to open the shared facilities at all until we went into Phase 2. Before and since then there have been daily discussions on how to move forward – I can tell you it has been daily because I’ve been in many of those conversations with management and contractors myself – while complying with complex government directives, considerations of safety, and practical issues driven by the pandemic. As such it seems important to share with you details of what we’ve been doing for last couple of months to get to the next stage for Parkfairfax.
Beginning in March, the Board and management have been working with our pool management company to discuss how to address opening once that was permitted and what we could do in between. Those efforts however have been in motion as the government has shifted and changed direction on when and how we can open the pools.
Our primary constraint in opening the pool is availability of lifeguards. Since all the pools have been closed, the required training could not begin until after Phase 2 began. Further, hiring could not begin until there was certainty about when Phase 2 would start. These moving targets have made planning very difficult. Even so, hiring and training have been underway since we moved into Phase 2. In fact, you have probably seen staff from our pool management company using our Pool A on Martha Custis for training activities over the last few days. The company rents the space from us to train lifeguards, which is what has been occurring. We are waiting to see when we can get a date when we will have enough staff available to open a pool (or multiple ones) ; we need at least 3 fully trained and certified to even open pool A, and one must be s supervisor. To be frank, this could be this weekend or into July, but we’re pushing for earlier. While the pool company has identified many younger hires for lifeguards, finding supervisors has been difficult. Further, the current international travel and visa situation means that the large international supply of students and young adults who we normally rely upon for lifeguarding is totally unavailable. They have been doing aggressive outreach to find staff, as it is in their best interest as it is ours. We have also explored discussion with other pool companies to see if we could supplement efforts, but they too have the same issues, and their projected timelines are no sooner than ours for providing staff.
To assist our efforts, if you know anyone who is interested in a lifeguarding job or a supervisor job for the pools please have them reach out to High Sierra, our pool company, as we will include their contact info for job applicants at the end of this email.
The community has also been in discussions, which is why the recreation committee is meeting to try to get creative ideas together, about how to meet the state’s health and distancing requirements in Phase 2 – and more practically at this point Phase 3. The health checks and cleaning requirements are considerations we must make in order to comply. Pool companies will not handle those functions – and we’ve asked several – so we are exploring whether we can hire a cleaning service to handle those requirements or see if self-cleaning of chairs and tables after every single use handled by pool guests is legally permissible. So while we have saved some money by not having the pools open to date, we are likely to have to pay more to attract and keep lifeguards and incur additional cleaning costs – while we’ve been always having to pay to keep the pool’s maintained and chemicals balanced to keep our permit – that will probably mean we actually may spend the same or just a little more or less.
Many of the same challenges that apply to the pool also apply to the gym, though absent lifeguard concerns. Our gym is relatively small and finding ways to have 10 feet of social distancing in such a small space as required is challenging. We also can’t move a lot of the equipment due to structural weight issues since it is a wood structure building – and they didn’t contemplate thousands of pounds of metal equipment on our floors during construction in the 1940’s so most has to be in fixed locations. Plus, the cleaning requirements become more challenging in a small indoor space, but we’ve been looking at various options to try to get owner access. We are currently considering a reservation system to limit access in predictable and knowable hours and times, and asking residents to clean – with wipes and cleaning solutions that we will provide – the equipment before and after their use. We do need to get guidance from our legal counsel on whether this flexible approach is consistent with the state orders and how we can comply with the requirement to perform health checks prior to allowing entry. Those orders also generally require that all equipment be separated by 10 feet, but that’s is just not possible given the size and layout of our gym. Hopefully we get approval to take an alternate approach where we let owners know the risks, expectations of cleaning, and limit access to a schedule that doesn’t create potential compliance issues.
I totally understand that this all seems like something that should be easy to do. But I’ve learned more about the complexity of the constraints and regulations than I ever care to know. And the Board is very aware that all residents and owners want us to find a way to access these amenities, and we have been working hard to find how to do that while also complying with government directives and keeping safety our top concern. It has not been easy or predictable, as evidenced by most other condo associations, like Fairlington, being in the same position we are in of just now being a lay out a feasible plan to open facilities with staff who can make it work. The Board is committed to moving forward swiftly though and our goal is to take every reasonable and safe step to get to access sooner rather than later. We’re prepared to hold a special Board meeting right away and approve opening plans once we have dates for the key triggers like lifeguard availability and strategy to handle health and cleaning requirements for the gym.
I live here too – just like the Board and you. And we all want to access our amenities safely and quickly just like you. Our goal is to have the plan, staffing projections that will drive opening dates, and safety measures finalized in the next week so the Board can approve to give very clear guidance on what is going to be possible, but we also ask for patience as we all navigate a process that none of us have gone through before and that has been changing everyday. Also, feel free to join the Recreation Committee’s call coming up at 7pm on June 30th talk through many of these items – you can join then by going to: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87541476880?pwd=cWRaUktzOTBKUU1RcUhTb3hqQ3htdz09. Also please feel free to reach out to anyone on the Board, myself, or management so we can update you on the latest. But keep an eye out for these email updates.
For those interested in applying for the supervisor role or lifeguards please contact:
Simeon Zabchev I Regional Manager
High Sierra Pools – SAFETY IS OUR FIRST PRIORITY
2704 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204
P: (703) 920-1750 ext. 103 | F: (703) 920-1753 |