WESTFIELD, NJ — Jonathan Bender and his two children could be found playing in the parking lot of the Westfield Memorial Pool complex Monday evening, but if the family will be swimming when the facility reopens for the season on Saturday remains to be decided.

Bender arrived in Westfield three years ago, and having the municipal pool within walking distance of his home on Scotch Plains Avenue prompted the family to invest in the annual membership for the past two years. This year may be different, however, as Bender and his family are weighing carefully the risks of COVID-19.

“It’s just a general concern I have but probably in the next couple weeks that will be overcome as I see more friends coming here, and they tell me how it is,” Bender said.

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Online registration for time slots at the pool begins Wednesday, with the details to be posted on the recreation department page of the town website, municipal officials said.

Town officials are touting a laundry list of precautions pool staff is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including a “deck supervisor/COVID ambassador” to ensure social distancing, the removal of deck chairs and the painting of circles on the grass to help encourage socially distanced seating.

Guests are also prohibited, the officials said.

“We will not be able to accommodate daily passes or member guests until further notice, so that our members continue to receive priority access to the pool,” the town’s statement said. “Please note that this includes family members as well, so any family membership must include everyone in the household who plans to attend.”

The full list of safety measures in keeping with COVID-19 requirements is as follows, according to the recreation department:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing between each session and throughout the day on an ongoing basis, with an emphasis on shared surfaces and high-touch areas.
  • Daily temperature checks of all staff members.
  • Ping pong and facility-owned lawn games will not be provided.
  • The appointment of a Deck Supervisor/COVID Ambassador to ensure social distancing, along with additional staff to monitor lines in common areas and provide additional customer service.
  • Installation of additional hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the entire complex.
  • Shoes are now mandatory to use the restroom facilities.
  • Members should bring face coverings and be prepared to wear them when walking in all common areas — including the entrance/exit, to and from the restroom and concession stand. Masks should not be worn in the water.
  • Lounge chairs will be removed this year to minimize shared surfaces. Members should plan to bring their own chairs or lawn blankets.
  • Social distancing markers will be in place at the facility entry, concession stand and restrooms.
  • Circles will be painted on the grass area for families to sit in and be socially distanced from others.
  • All members are required to scan their membership cards at both entry and exit to verify complex capacity.

Guidance from the state on reopening public amid COVID-19 had come later than anticipated for Westfield officials, who found themselves still preparing for the coming season Monday, the same day Gov. Phil Murphy permitted pools to open to the public.

Mayor Shelley Brindle in a Facebook post said the pool season will extend through Sept. 19, later than usual, and she noted the state recently modified its limit to how many people could be permitted at the pool.

“The state guidance has been modified from 50% of total facility capacity to instead allowing the maximum number permitted for outdoor gatherings in the state — which is currently 250 people and will increase to 500 on July 3,” Brindle’s statement said.

“In order to ensure we are in compliance with the new capacity guidelines, and to provide more equitable access, we will be implementing an online reservation system, with time slots, until further notice.”

With maximum allowable capacity at 250 people per session from June 27 – July 2, residents may register for two-hour time slots, according to the town. Click here to view the time slots on the recreation department page of the town’s website. A different schedule takes effect when the state limit on outdoor gatherings rises to 500 people per session after July 3, the recreation department page says.

As for Bender and his family, regardless of their decision about the pool, they still intend to visit the pool complex, which also has tennis courts.

“If not [for swimming] we still want to come here to play tennis or play in the parking lot, but for the pool facility itself we’re still a little divided,” Bender said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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