Swimming lessons dry up for children in Surrey as population grows, COVID concerns quickly fill facilities

As the city of Surrey continues to grow, many families say they struggle to find swimming lessons for their children and worry about the lack of city-run leisure facilities to accommodate a growing population.

Megha Anand said she had been trying for two years to enroll her seven-year-old daughter without success.

“It was really tough,” Anand told CBC News.

“I think she finished tier 1 when she was about five, but when we tried to get her into tier 2 we couldn’t get a place. The following year we tried again… and we still couldn’t get a place.”

About four times a year, the city opens registration for summer, spring, fall, and winter swimming lessons and other extracurricular activities.

Anand said when registration opened on a Sunday night this year, she hopped online to register only to find that all the classes that fit their family schedules were already full.

“We’re both full-time working parents, so 2 or 3 p.m. classes don’t work for our family,” Anand said.

Families in Surrey, B.C., say there aren’t enough city-run recreational facilities to accommodate its growing population. (Kiran Singh/CBC News)

According to unofficial Statistics Canada data, more than 13,000 new residents moved to Surrey last year, bringing the area’s total population to 614,000.

Official population and housing figures from the 2021 census will be released on February 9.

COVID-19 restrictions limit capacity

Courtney So said she didn’t even bother trying to enroll her three-year-old son in swimming lessons this year because she knows from experience that lessons fill up too quickly, especially during the pandemic with the COVID-19 restrictions which limit the number of children per class.

“Registration started at 9 p.m. Sunday and then it was like, ‘Oh, it’s already on the waiting list…it’s 9:01 p.m. Second time, I was even more prepared…but I didn’t still haven’t succeeded…so this time, I didn’t even try.”

So, who moved to Surrey for more space for her children and to be closer to her parents, says the lack of municipal services available in a growing community has her doubting her decision to move from Vancouver.

“Surrey’s ability to remain affordable to us in the long term is really questionable at this point. Being able to access city services, which tend to be much cheaper and more affordable for families, is huge,” he said. she declared.

Courtney So said registration for swimming lessons for the summer opens at 9 p.m. on Sunday evening. She said that at 9:01 p.m., classes were full. (Kiran Singh/CBC News)

So says she tried private swimming lessons, but affordability was an issue, so they signed her up for soccer and skating this year.

“It’s terrifying to think that my kids are going to need a vital skill and not have it. It kind of makes me feel like a failure as a parent because I can’t provide my kid what should be a pretty simple thing to do like swimming lessons.”

Pool closures

Currently two of Surrey’s five swimming pools are closed – Newton Leisure Center Wave Pool and South Surrey Indoor Pool – but the city has said it plans to reopen Newton Wave Pool by March, as well as the South Surrey Indoor Pool. to recruit more staff.

“All hours and programming for our open aquatic center have changed due to limited staffing capacity for lifeguards and facility support staff,” the city’s parks department said in an email to CBC News.

“The City is investing more resources and effort in recruiting lifeguards.”

The city plans to reopen the Newton Recreation Center wave pool by March 2022. Two of Surrey’s five pools are currently closed. (Kiran Singh/CBC News)

Asked by CBC News how many employees have been laid off during the pandemic and how many have returned, the parks department did not respond.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said the pandemic and public health restrictions had an impact on swimming pools, but he heard no complaints about the number of leisure facilities in the city and its growing population .

The city plans to build a new Newton Community Center by 2024, which includes a 50-meter pool, but no pool is included in the $40 million Chuck Bailey Recreation Center expansion.

CBC British Columbia has launched a bureau in Surrey to help tell your stories with journalist Kiran Singh. Story ideas and tips can be sent to [email protected].

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