As this year comes to a close we have begun to look back in retrospection. Oklahoma Swim Academy made the difficult decision to close our doors in March due to the on-going pandemic. Our hearts were heavy as we knew that drownings do not take a break just because a virus is sweeping the globe. We knew that our community still needed to be educated and served every day our doors were closed. Thankfully, and with loads of CDC precautions, we were able to resume serving the community in mid May. There were many concerns to listen to and address, including the biggest question: how can you swim with a mask on?

When we announced that we were re-opening in May, many of our customers came to us with concerns about safety and whether or not their children would be comfortable with their masked instructors. After much assurance, we proceeded. As is currently mandatory in our state, everyone indoors was required to mask up and maintain social distancing guidelines, including our instructors. However, the students we taught were not required to wear masks in the pool. Our instructors even took the time to film videos at home of them wearing their masks so their students could familiarize themselves with their masked faces. Our fantastic group of instructors proved that we could keep our doors open during this time.

The instructors took it upon themselves to keep our facility sparkling clean. We all took turns doing different cleaning tasks, using our down time to make sure we could continue serving the area. Not only did they maintain the cleanliness of our facility, but they also wanted to make sure everyone felt as welcome and comfortable as possible during this time. Instructors began to chalk our sidewalks and entrances with welcoming messages and drawings. 

Unfortunately, there were side effects to the pandemic that we did not anticipate. When the lockdown started, children were denied the ability to socialize. Socialization is a critical asset in child development. As our customers came back to lessons, they were seeing the harm done by the lockdown. Children were experiencing anxiety being away from their parents, something they might not have done in several months. It was a difficult transition for both parents and instructors. Students that had a close bond with their instructor before the lockdown became teary in lessons. Many lost their confidence in the water. We were working diligently to get our students back to where they were. All summer we saw the immense amount of work our students did to regain their skills. We were so proud. 

Here we are, almost exactly six months later. We are still open, and still committed to serving the community around us. It seemed impossible while we were still in lockdown, but Oklahoma Swim Academy has proven to be adaptable and overcome the challenges presented to us. Although the pandemic is still far from over, we are feeling joyful. Our mission is to provide a love of safe swimming for all ages and we are still persisting in our goal. When we are asked, “How can you teach with a mask on?” Our response is simple: well.

Written by Oklahoma Swim Academy instructor and supervisor Kat Janzen