Now that COVID has eased up, things seem almost normal again. Mask mandates have been lifted, rush hour traffic is back to being maddening, and people are, for the most part, back to living their lives without being ruled by COVID fear. I'm so happy to be out and about, too, and have been spending some time at my local pool.

In California, where I live, the swim season has started in earnest. My son is enrolled in a larger swim class this year after previously being in semi-private lessons, and I have noticed a few things.

For one — and this is, admittedly, an obvious one — class size makes a huge difference. Last summer, I was able to grab slots for semi-private classes where the instructor-student ratio was 1:2. My son flourished under such individualized attention. His current class, however, is 1:8. It's a lot for one teacher to handle for a short 30 minute session, especially when the children are younger.

Which brings me to the next observation — most of the kids are between ages 5-8, so my son, at 12, is considerably older. He spends much of the class waiting for the younger kids to settle down. A far better situation would be if classes were further categorized and offered by age in addition to ability. (Of course, this may not be possible in these times, with staffing issues what they are.)

Lastly, and most curiously, our local pool is still observing COVID protocols for group swim instruction, which means the teacher is standing on the deck, trying their best to teach a group of squirrelly kids by verbally instructing them, instead of being able to show them or help physically manipulate their limbs into the correct form in the water. As most of you already know, this is not an ideal way to teach swimming.

Watching the students struggle to improve made me wonder: At what point do aquatics facilities revert back to pre-COVID protocols? These operational adaptations, made possible by the tireless work of many industry leaders, allowed pools to remain open and safe during the pandemic. And these efforts have been proven to work — there were absolutely zero instances of COVID spreading at aquatics facilities. But as the virus moves into an endemic stage, we'll need to assess the level of risk we're willing to take at our pools.

This has immediate business ramifications. As a parent, I'm starting to consider looking elsewhere for swim instruction — where the classes are smaller and the teacher is actually in the pool with students.

What has your facility decided to do about COVID protocols? Are you back to normal or sticking to the changes?