Oak Harbor pool to improve program for low-income swimmers

The North Whidbey Park and Recreation District leaders are looking to improve the way the district helps needy families.

The publicly funded district, which operates the John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool, has long offered discounts to children who receive free and reduced lunches in local schools.

But now officials want to find a way to cover their costs and figure out a way to offer discounts to adults who would have difficulty paying pool fees.

Bill Walker, executive director for the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, said during a recent board meeting that the district “eats” the cost of the discount offered to children, but nothing is available for other people.

Approximately 10 percent of the families participating in swim school and the North Whidbey Aquatic Club receive a discount in their fees. Children receiving free lunches in the school district receive a 50 percent discount and students receiving a reduced price lunch receive a 25 percent discount. Dues for the swim team range between $48 and $90, while the swim school costs $40 for eight classes.

Walker said the district needs to develop some kind of scholarship program to help offset the costs of the program. He contacted the Municipal Research and Services Center; the organization said the park district is correct in using an external resource to determine eligibility for children.

He said staff members should examine other park districts that have an outside foundation. Walker and at least one commissioner will visit the Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center to learn about its “Friends of the Pool” group. He noted the Anacortes booster club manages the swim meets at the pool, while the park district manages events directly.

Commissioner Sean Merrill recommended a committee be formed to further examine how to improve ways to reach low-income people.


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