Skip to content

‘The Hunger Games of swimming registration’: parents dismayed over limited St. Albert pool space

“We pay a lot of taxes in St. Albert to have these things and then we can never even use them as residents,” one mother said.
0709 pool react file CC
"Not everyone can pay for private lessons or drive to Edmonton," one mother said after registration quickly filled up the morning of Aug. 31, 2022. FILE/Photo

St. Albert parents expressed shock at how quickly spots for swimming lessons filled up the morning of Aug. 31. 

Two days prior, the city announced when early fall swimming lesson registration for St. Albert residents would begin. After registration opened at 8 a.m. on Aug. 31, parents told The Gazette slots were filled shortly after.  

Danielle Ziesman, a parent looking to register her child in pre-school level lessons, said she received an email around 8:20 a.m. saying registration had opened, but didn’t open the email until 9 a.m. 

When she went to check, she found most spots were full, and there were only a few left during the day time. Ziesman, who works during the day, would not be able to fit these spots into her schedule. 

Frustratingly, her work schedule is also what made it so she couldn't register for coveted evening and weekend slots, Ziesman said.

“I didn’t have the time to just be waiting on the St. Albert website this morning,” Ziesman said that day. “It’s quite competitive, like The Hunger Games of swimming registration.”

Ziesman highlighted how the lack of swim space in St. Albert often means less privileged children get left behind. For example, she noted some families might not have the disposable income on hand to register for classes at the drop of a hat. 

“I feel like there are going to be a lot of kids that miss out just because their parents are working, or their parents aren’t super tech savvy, or they can’t just wait around the computer at that time,” Ziesman said. 

She said she would like to see the city try different initiatives, such as incentivizing those who might not work during the day to sign up for slots in the day time, or offering fewer weeks of lessons to try to create additional space. 

“There’s got to be a way for some more equity,” Ziesman said. 

Heather Thoma, the mother of two children, said she started calling in to register for lessons at 8:30 a.m. 

Eventually, Thoma had both her personal and work phones on hold, with each disconnecting on her periodically. 

“I did that for 45 minutes, only to be told when I got through that all the classes are full,” Thoma said. 

Like Ziesman, Thoma said she works and can’t line up to register her kids at 6 a.m. 

“We pay a lot of taxes in St. Albert to have these things, and then we can never even use them as residents,” Thoma said. 

Fountain Park pool closure extended

Earlier on Aug. 22 the city announced the closure of Fountain Park pool — which began in May — will continue into 2023, instead of concluding in September as previously planned. The city has not yet confirmed when in 2023 the facility will reopen.  

Even before the closure of Fountain Park pool, it was still extremely difficult to register for swimming lessons, she added. 

“Booking swimming lessons in St. Albert is a painful experience, period,” Thoma said, and after seven years of trying to register her oldest child for swim lessons, she eventually gave up, instead opting to participate in lessons only when offered through her school. 

Thoma said the lack of swimming lessons in the city is “frustrating, disappointing, and disengaging.”

“It’s one of those things I personally feel isn’t even just a recreational item,” Thoma said. “It’s a life skill that protects you, from a safety standpoint.”

Thoma said she understands the attraction of the city’s programming when private lessons can be double or triple the price. 

“That’s something that weighs on you in a time when household costs and household incomes are not aligning the way they might have in the past,” Thoma said. 

Ziesman said when she grew up, swimming lessons were “one of those things that was for everyone.” 

“I can find somewhere else to go, it’s just nice if it’s in my community,” Ziesman said. “But not everyone can pay for private lessons or drive to Edmonton.”