The Princeton Recreation Commission will likely approve the opening of the Community Park Pool and rates for the shorter pool season at the commission’s 7 p.m. Zoom video meeting this Thursday, June 18.
Recreation Director Ben Stentz said he is optimistic that the pool will be able to open by July 15 at the latest, but possibly sooner. Ultimately the decision is up to the recreation commission. Local health officials will attend the meeting Thursday to discuss pool issues with the commission.
Stentz said many people have told him they don’t think the pool should open at all for the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while others tell him they want the pool to open up on June 22, the first day Gov. Phil Murphy has allowed pools to open.
“We are looking at opening the pool through the lens of public health — the health of pool patrons and staff, many who are teens,” Stentz said in a phone interview Tuesday. “We are vetting everything through a public health lens and working to make sound decisions and minimize risks for everyone.”
Recreation directors across the state hoped to have guidance on pool openings before Memorial Day. But Gov. Murphy announced on June 8 that pools can open on June 22. Then on June 10, state officials issued guidance to municipal recreation directors about how to manage programs.
“The guidance came with a lot of requirements to work through,” Stentz said. “We are working through it all as quickly as we can. We are not going to cut corners and compromise safety. Ther are lots of protocols we must follow. I have full confidence that all of my staff, including my young lifeguards, are up to the challenge.”
He cautioned that the pool will not operate in the same way as it has in past years. “It’s not going to be like normal,” Stentz said. “It’s hard to know what the new normal will look like or how long it will last. There will likely be changes along the way. This is new territory.”
Pool staff members will have to keep a log of everyone who comes to the pool and what time they arrive and leave, for contact tracing purposes. Everyone will be required to have a pool identification card, even though in a regular season, many people are day visitors and are not season pass holders.
The governor has limited capacity at pools to 50 percent of the normal maximum. Stentz has been working out a system to limit capacity in a way that is fair to all pool-goers and is also fiscally sound for the municipality. Staff members must also be trained regarding COVID-19 protocols. And then there is the issue of enforcing social distancing at the pool complex.
Stentz, who grew up in Princeton, spent his summers swimming at the Community Park Pool, and his first job was at the pool, so he said he understands those who want to see it open.
“Trust me, there is nobody more invested than me in having the pool be open and successful this summer,” he said. “We just need to do it safely.”