Pools still on COVID hold

May 8, 2020

Public pools on the Kenai Peninsula, including the Nikiski Pool, remain closed while COVID mitigation plans are prepared.
Credit North Peninsula Recreation Service Area

Though the state of Alaska’s Phase II for scaling back COVID-19 restrictions allows for the opening of swimming pools, no one on the Kenai Peninsula is going to be making a splash in public pools anytime soon.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District facilities remain closed. Pegge Erkeneff, KPBSD communications director, says the district does not have any immediate plans to open the seven school pools across the peninsula.

“It’s actually fairly complex when you really start looking at everything from entrances, capacities, social distancing, shower requirements, and if DEC waives shower requirements prior to a swim then what does that do to the pool water and chemicals needed? And then the energy savings and the financial savings are a really big thing right now for the school district, as well, as we face really unknown budgets coming up in the next couple years,” Erkeneff said.

Guidelines from the state don’t address school pools, specifically. Pools, in general, are limited to 50 percent capacity and swimmers must be 10 feet apart. It’s recommended that everyone wear masks when not in the water.

Erkeneff says it would take a minimum of two weeks for any school district pool to be able to open. Staff would have to be brought back and cleaning and sanitizing protocols established. Several pools are drained and the rest are being kept at 50 degrees, rather than the usual 82 to 86 degrees.

The pools in Seward and Homer will be closed all summer for maintenance — new locker rooms in Seward and new boilers in Homer. The pool at Soldotna High School is usually closed for the summer.

It is possible the pools at Skyview Middle, in Soldotna, and Kenai Central High School could open this summer, but Erkeneff says more direction from the state is needed.

“Right now, there are a few unanswered questions that we are trying to get answers to from the state level and at this time our school facilities are still closed,” Erkeneff said. “So there is not a movement right now of saying, ‘OK, let’s start it and put that into process.’ But the scenarios have all been analyzed for each one of our schools based on where they are with current maintenance happening, if they’re fully drained or partially drained, water temperature and, then, staff.” 

The Nikiski Pool is part of the Nikiski Community Recreation Center, run by the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Pool manager Nigel LaRiccia says they’re working toward opening.

“We are still working on developing our mitigation plans. Our priority is our staff and public safety, so we want to make sure we are doing the best we can within the mandates to be able to open and then be able to do it safely,” LaRiccia said. 

LaRiccia didn’t have a timeline for opening, but you can keep an eye on the North Peninsula Recreation Service Area page on Facebook or NorthPenRec.com.