The American Red Cross abruptly rolled out a series of changes to
its programs that include a new fee structure that many industry
professionals say is unmanageable at a time of such economic
In fact, 82 percent of aquatics professionals polled either intend
to look for other options or plan to protest the new fees,
according to an informal Aquatics International online
poll of approximately 200 readers.
For some providers, fees have as much as tripled. “For
San Francisco, it’s about a $25,000 hit just for
learn-to-swim [classes],” said Jim Wheeler, recreation
services manager for the San Francisco Recreation and Parks
Department, and owner of Total Aquatic Management.
Officially, a new fee schedule took effect July 1. It’s part
of a big-picture effort to create uniformity, increase the
agency’s ability to provide programming to those who are now
underserved, and streamline offerings through the increased used of
technology, said Jack McMaster, Red Cross president, Preparedness
and Health and Safety Services.
Other changes include improved back-office support for providers,
and course materials available online through an updated learning
management system. Improvements to the online tools will alleviate
the cost of purchasing books from a publisher, allow providers to
print certificates directly, and improve access to records,
But many Red Cross approved providers were not given much more than
a month’s notice about the changes. That’s left many
wondering how they will cover the increased fees, with budgets
already in place.
“It’s really disheartening to have an organization that
has relied on volunteers make such a radical move without
consultation,” Wheeler said.
Like most agencies, the Red Cross has been affected by the weak
economy, and increasing fees to operators will help it better
cover the expense of research and development of courses and
materials, McMaster said. Moreover, it will also enable Red Cross
to update course materials more quickly, he added.
Prior to the new schedule, local chapters set the fees and the
amount collected was not consistent, even among agencies priced the
same. The new policy of implementing fees on a national level will
help recover costs by alleviating complications, he said.
McMaster admitted that communication about the changes could have
been better, but said the Red Cross wants to work with agencies
facing a challenge in meeting the new fee schedule.
“There is not, and has not, and will not be any at-risk
community that goes without materials,” McMaster said.
“We’re trying to get back the costs, double the reach
for outreach and recover costs where there’s an ability to
To that end, as of press time a meeting had been set including
representatives from the Red Cross National Headquarters and
aquatics leaders from California, noted Judith Sperling, assistant
director, risk management training and development for UCLA
Recreation in Los Angeles.
But based on numerous comments posted on AI Connect, there
is still confusion among operators regarding the new policies. That
has left some considering whether to move to another
“Many of the new changes … are troubling and
worrisome,” said Josh Teitelbaum, an aquatics professional
from New Orleans on AI Connect, Aquatics
International’s professional online network.
He acknowledged some of the positive changes, but added,
“Still, the way much of this has been handled —
including poor communication and poor roll-outs of both new
policies and new programs — may lead to all kinds of
confusion, loss of instructor retention, and poor implementation of
these and other policies and programs. It’s a very confusing
time out there right now for approved providers and local chapters,
and even some large regional chapters are very confused by all this
and what is expected of them. ... ”