August 13, 2014 6:27 pm

High Park dad says long-standing city pool supervision rules are unfair

A Toronto father says the city needs to be more accommodating to parents who want to take more than two young kids swimming in public pools.

As he watches over them, Kevin Putnam’s kids; aged six, four, and one; run through fountains and kick puddles of water at each other at a splash pad down the street from their High Park home. If he wants to take all three of them out for some heat-beating fun, this is the best he’s going to get.

Putnam tried to take the kids to High Park pool Monday afternoon, but says he was politely turned away.

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“I was floored,” says Putnam. “They asked how old my kids were. I told them and they said ‘well, I’m sorry you can’t come in with three children under the age of 10 unless you have a second adult with you.'”

City rules require a ratio of one supervisor for every two kids who are to be kept within an arm’s reach. A “supervisor” can be anyone 14 years of age or older.

Putnam’s oldest son is six-years-old. He can access the deep end if he passes a swim test, but must be supervised at all times until he turns 7, which is not until next year.

Putnam is used to bringing his two older kids to the pool without an issue. But everything changed when he tried to bring his young daughter for the first time.

“The pool is fully staffed with lifeguards. That’s their job, to look after kids,” says Putnam.

The city adapted these pool policies in 2000. Officials say they are regularly reviewed and parents generally receive them positively.

“This policy…has proven itself to be very effective,” says Aydin Sarrafzadeh of Toronto Parks, Forestry & Recreation. “It works very well.”

The rule is based on a provincial standard created 20 years ago by the Lifesaving Society after multiple drowning deaths.

Barbara Byers of Lifesaving Society Ontario tells Global News “two children under the age of seven for one parent is a lot. It’s a lot to watch in a grocery store sometimes, in a park, but especially in water.”

In response to Putnam’s inquiry, Byers says “we don’t see any reason to change it.”

But the local City Councillor says after a couple decades, it might be time to at least explore alternative options.

“The idea here is can we do anything while maintaining safety at the core of what we’re doing? Can we do anything to help these families?”

Ana Bailao suggests relaxing the rules at just one pool in the city. She plans to have staff look into that option immediately, before the current term of Council ends, but stresses it is just an exploratory initiative.

“What does a stay at home dad do?” asks Putnam.

“They have to make other arrangements, find someone to come with them, have a babysitter for the other (child)?”

In the meantime, for the Putnam kids, the splash pad will have to do.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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