The coronavirus pandemic kept most municipal swimming pools closed last summer, but many cities in Johnson County have announced their intentions to reopen at least some of their outdoor pools for 2021.
Overland Park, Olathe and Shawnee, however, have highlighted an important obstacle: A shortage of staff, mainly lifeguards.
“Officials are hopeful that Stonegate Pool, Young’s Pool and Tomahawk Ridge Aquatic Center will open for the season starting Memorial Day weekend, depending on the public health situation at the time, and if there’s adequate staffing of fully trained lifeguards,” Overland Park said in a news release.
Overland Park will not open the Bluejacket and Marty pools this summer.
Shawnee plans to open both its facilities, Splash Cove and the Thomas A. Soetaert Aquatic Center, on May 29 but continues to hire and train staff members.
“Staffing has been a challenge in 2021,” said Kate Kincaid of the Parks & Recreation Department. “If we are not able to hit minimum staffing requirements for both facilities, we will need to consider modified hours of operation at Splash Cove.”
Amid the pandemic, Shawnee is training staff in smaller groups with a limited class size.
Because of COVID-19’s impact on staffing, Olathe doesn’t plan to open Frontier Pool this season but will notify the public if it determines that the pool can be operated safely. However, Black Bob Bay, Mill Creek Pool and Oregon Trail Pool will open: Black Bob Bay on May 24 and the others on May 29.
Overland Park needs at least 180 lifeguards to operate the three outdoor pools, plus the indoor pool at the Matt Ross Community Center downtown, which the city is attempting to reopen. But last year’s closures have made recruiting even more difficult.
“Each pool season, Overland Park relies on a percentage of lifeguards returning to work from the previous outdoor season,” the city said. “However, after last year’s summer-long shutdown, many of those college and high school students have moved on to other jobs and are no longer interested in working at a pool.”
Overland Park offers free training for potential lifeguards and urges residents to alert young people to the opportunity. Anyone interested can apply through the Careers tab at opkansas.org. In Shawnee, applications are being taken at cityofshawnee.org/jobs.
Both cities will follow COVID-19 protocols once pools open. Shawnee, for example, will limit capacity and provide assigned spacing in places where people tend to congregate such as admission, concessions and slides.
Other Johnson County communities also are making decisions on their pool seasons. Here’s a sampling from the larger cities:
▪ Lenexa: The city plans to operate all three of its outdoor pools — Ad Astra, Flat Rock Creek and Indian Trails Aquatic Center — barring unforeseen maintenance or physical issues.
To reduce the chance of disease transmission, Lenexa will limit attendance to 50% of capacity at each location, and visitors must bring their own chairs to sit on. Opening dates will be staggered: May 29 for Indian Trails, June 5 for Ad Astra and June 12 for Flat Rock Creek.
▪ Prairie Village: The city plans to open its pool complex on May 29, with a limit of 400 guests at a given time. Deck chairs and lounges will be placed in pairs 6 feet apart from other chairs, with one pair for each party. Guests will be asked not to move the chairs, and are to come “swim ready” to reduce crowds in locker rooms and restrooms.
▪ Leawood: The aquatic center at Leawood City Park will open on Memorial Day weekend, according to the city website.
Roeland Park sets new taser policy
On April 11, a Minnesota police officer killed a young Black man after she said she confused her taser and handgun. Within days, Roeland Park announced a new policy designed to prevent a similar tragedy.
The policy calls for the taser to be carried on the opposite of the body from the firearm. The former Brooklyn Center, Minn., police chief said that was standard procedure there, where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was fatally shot.
“It is important that we continuously evaluate and update our policies to ensure we are protecting and serving the public with the utmost care,” Roeland Park Police Chief John Morris said in a statement.
The department also was working to schedule a taser recertification class that all Roeland Park officers will be required to take.
JCCC student honored
Jacquelyn “Jacqui” White, a student at Johnson County Community College, is one of only 20 students nationwide to be selected for the All-USA Academic Team.
The designation, which comes with a $5,000 scholarship, is regarded as the most prestigious academic honor for students attending associate degree-granting institutions. Recipients must demonstrate academic excellence, intellectual rigor, leadership and service.
White also has been named a 2021 New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar, which gives her an additional $2,250 in scholarship money. That honor was based on the score earned in the All-USA Academic Team competition. Only one New Century Transfer Scholar is selected from each state.
White is close to earning an associate degree in general sciences at JCCC. She plans to pursue a biology degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and eventually become a physician assistant.
Recently, White has worked with two area health departments on a study of how a patient’s age is correlated with COVID-19 symptoms.
Lenexa to reopen senior center
Lenexa will reopen its senior center on May 3, more than a year after it closed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The center is at 13425 Walnut St. in Old Town.
COVID-19 aid for renters
Financial assistance is available to Johnson County tenants who have had difficulty paying rent or utilities during the coronavirus pandemic.
The funds are available through the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation to applicants of the Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance (KERA) program, which offers tenants up to 12 months of assistance with current or past due rent and past due utility, trash and internet bills. Renters can apply for help with any or all of the services.
Both the tenant and landlord must apply online. Payments will be made to the landlord or other service providers.
To apply and get details on eligibility and needed documentation, go to kshousingcorp.org. Johnson Countians who need help with the application should call the United Way’s 211 helpline.
Council vacancy in Spring Hill
Now that Spring Hill City Council member Andrea Hughes has announced her resignation because she’s moving out of state, the city is seeking applicants to fill out her term ending in January 2024.
Applications are due on April 30. Forms are available at City Hall, 401 N. Madison St., or at springhillks.gov. The new council member is expected to be appointed on May 13.
Aging efforts recognized
Although more than a dozen area cities have received the designation, Johnson County has become the first county in the region to receive Communities for All Ages recognition from the Mid-America Regional Council.
Requirements for the bronze-level award included a resolution by the county commission to become a Community for All Ages and a public forum on aging.
Since the program began in 2008 with the help of the First Suburbs Coalition, a total of 17 local cities have received similar recognition.
Earning gold level status, according to a Johnson County press release, were Gladstone, Grandview, Independence, Kearney, Lee’s Summit, Mission, North Kansas City, Raymore and Roeland Park. Excelsior Springs and Liberty earned a silver-level award while Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Olathe, Parkville, Peculiar and Raytown were recognized at the bronze level.