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Students with special needs to use Grosse Pointe Shores pool for summer program

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 9, 2019

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Children, teens and adults with special needs will again be able to use the pool at Osius Park in Grosse Pointe Shores for a portion of their summer program.

The Arc of Grosse Pointe/Harper Woods — a nonprofit that offers programs, support and information to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — will be using the pool from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from June 17 to Aug. 16. Shores officials say 10 to 12 youths with special needs will be accompanied by four Arc staffers and volunteers, one of whom is a certified lifeguard. The students will be split into two groups who will alternate pool days.

Shores officials said that Pool Supervisor Kay Drake and the Shores Parks Committee recommended those days and times for the Arc students, because they don’t coincide with Shores swim lessons or swim team practices. The Arc has been using the Osius Park pool since 2016.

City Councilman Matthew Seely confirmed with city and Arc officials that the “total group is less than 20 on a weekly basis.”

“My big concern was if we got into … 35, 40 people,” Seely said. “That’s a pretty big group. If it’s 16 people, that’s not a big group. I don’t have a problem with it.”

Other officials concurred.

“I don’t have a problem with it either,” Mayor Ted Kedzierski said.

The Shores City Council voted unanimously June 18 in favor of allowing the Arc to use the pool and splash pad.

Deborah Moffatt, director of the Arc, said this summer program started decades ago under the auspices of the Foundation for Exceptional Children, which no longer exists. She said the Arc took over the program in 2013. The summer program is headquartered at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Grosse Pointe Woods.

“We provide all the activities a typical child would have in a summer program, but with additional support so our children and teens can be successful,” Moffatt explained in a letter to the City Council. “Swimming is a favorite activity and so good for our participants. It provides exercise, helps their coordination, builds their self-confidence and allows them to have fun.”

She said they try to make sure the program has the lowest impact possible on the park.

“Our policy would be that each child would have a (1-1 ratio of child to staff) in the big pool unless they were an independent swimmer and (then) would still stay in the shallow end,” Moffatt wrote. “Many of our younger children prefer the splash pad, and would still be supervised by our staff and volunteers. We would come already dressed for swimming, so as not to overwhelm the dressing area.”

Shores resident Chase Wakefield voiced support for the program before the council vote.

“Them using our pool, I think, is a no-brainer,” he told the council. “That organization becomes a catchall for kids and adults who don’t have a place to go for recreation. I’m hoping we will again allow them to use our pool.”

The Arc pool usage question had been in front of the council in May, but some council members had questions about the program and were concerned that the pool might be overwhelmed by a large group of students.

Moffatt said many Shores residents are Arc members or supporters.