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Public swimming programs return to Derry Area pool

Jeff Himler
| Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 10:52 a.m.

Popular public swimming programs are set to make a return at Derry Area High School's indoor pool, under an agreement between the school district and the Derry Area Aqua Club.

In an initial one-year agreement running through June 30, the Aqua Club intends to supervise recreational public swim periods and party rentals at the pool beginning this fall.

Jackie Buterbaugh of Blairsville, co-president of the club, said open swim periods for all ages could begin this month. Barring any conflict with school-related activities at the pool, the swim periods are planned for 1 to 3 p.m. on Sundays and 7:30 to 8:30 p.m on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Two-hour rentals for pool parties would be offered on weekends. Suggested times are 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 2 to 4 p.m. or 5 to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

Buterbaugh said the Aqua Club was working to finalize an agreement with an instructor so it can also offer evening water aerobics classes.

She explained public swimming programs at the district pool had been operated for a number of years by the Derry Area Recreation Board. But, that organization became inactive and eventually took formal action to dissolve at a special meeting in July. As a result, it's been more than a year since the public was able to take advantage of the indoor pool.

Buterbaugh noted the Aqua Club also will continue in its original role of sponsoring competitive swimming for ages 5-18 at the school pool as part of the local Chestnut Ridge Swim League. She said about 75 youth participate in fall and winter seasons, which feature about two meets per month. Meets are scheduled about twice weekly during a summer season, from May through July.

According to Buterbaugh, "The Aqua Club has sort of been a feeder program for the high school swim team." She said the club began as a program of the rec board, but broke out on its own as that panel's activities dwindled.

Since the Aqua Club continued to use the indoor pool, she said, many people in the community assumed the club, not the rec board, had previously organized public swimming at the facility. So, when the rec panel dropped that programming, club officials began getting phone calls from community members anxious for the programs to resume.

"People would call us and want to know when the (public) pool sessions would start up again, and we had to tell them, 'Sorry, that was through the rec board,'" Buterbaugh said. "Then we thought, 'Well, we are always at the pool. We knew what programs went on at the rec board. It would make sense. Why not offer to do that, since we're always there."

The most persistent calls, she said, have come from local residents who were regular participants in past water aerobics classes at the indoor pool.

She said Aqua Club officials began discussing the idea with Brandon Rapp, the school district's athletic director and coordinator of community rec programs, and worked with him to develop a proposal that was formalized in an agreement with the school board at its regular meeting earlier this month.

"It's a year-to-year agreement so, if we need to, we can change it a little bit," Buterbaugh said.

School board President Nathan Doherty thanked the Aqua Club for stepping forward to take over the pool programs. "This is excellent," he said, noting, "People miss the pool parties and the water aerobics."

During the period when public programming at the high school pool was no longer available, Buterbaugh said, some local residents were able to rent the pool at Latrobe's Saint Vincent College for functions.

Now, she said, the Aqua Club already has received at least one inquiry about scheduling a pool party once more at Derry Area's natatorium. When offered by the rec board, she said parties booked at the school pool had been a popular choice for children's birthday celebrations: "The kids could come and swim and play, and the parents would usually provide cake in the lobby after the kids got out of the pool."

Although lifeguards, hired by the Aqua Club, will be present, Buterbaugh said the revived programs at the Derry Area pool are intended for those who already know how to swim. Eventually, "Swim lessons are something we hope to start," she said.

She added that she would like at some point to reintroduce popular periods that had been offered before the beginning of the school day, for members of the public who like to swim morning laps.

An Aqua Club official is to be designated as recreational supervisor for the public swim programs. That individual will work with Rapp to schedule activities so they don't conflict with the school's use of the pool -- for physical education classes and competitive teams.

Buterbaugh noted the Aqua Club's public programs will be held only during the school year, so as not to compete with a summer swim season at an outdoor community pool that is owned by Derry Borough and has been managed by the Ligonier Valley YMCA.

According to Buterbaugh, the Aqua Club expanded the scope of its existing insurance policy to satisfy the school district's minimum requirement of $1 million liability and property damage coverage for the renewed programs at the pool.

Save for lifeguard pay or instructor fees, all proceeds from the Aqua Club's public programming are to be turned over monthly to the district. According to the agreement, that money will be split between the district general fund, as reimbursement for use of the facility, and an account that will be used to cover costs for pool equipment and repairs. The district has agreed to exhaust the pool account before requesting donations from the Aqua Club.

Derry Area Superintendent Roberta McCahan said the new agreement will benefit the district and the Aqua Club as well as members of the public who have missed using the pool.

"It's a great partnership. We're really looking forward to it," McCahan said. "It's a win-win."

The district will continue to pay for maintenance and operation of the pool, budgeted at more than $100,000 annually, McCahan noted. She said the intent is to tap the new dedicated pool account when needed to pay for items that could benefit all those who use the facility.

For instance, she cited computerized touch pads that are used during competitions to register a swimmer's completion of a trip across the length of the pool. Each of the pads costs about $2,500, McCahan said. "We try to purchase those on a rotating basis because they are so expensive."

The agreement with the school board also outlines fees the Aqua Club will charge to the public for the various programs, including $3 per person for each open swim session. The price for pool parties will begin at $150 for a two-hour session for up to 50 people. The club will charge an additional $25 for each additional 10 swimmers and an additional $25 for each extra hour of swimming.

The club also will offer individual season pool passes for a fee of $40. There will be two seasons offered, running from August through December and from January through May.

For more information about the public swim programs at the Derry Area indoor pool, contact Buterbaugh, at 724-459-6427, or the district athletic office, at 724-694-1419.

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