College selectively opens indoor spaces and facilities as winter approaches

Stephanie Teng

Selected indoor athletic facilities reopened on Friday to receive small groups of students under strict public health measures, as announced by an all-campus email from the COVID-19 Operations and Business Continuity Committee last Thursday. While the Lasell Gymnasium will remain closed, varsity athletes and students enrolled in relevant PE classes can now access the pool, squash courts, rink and Chandler Gym.

According to Athletic Director Lisa Melendy, the decision to reopen selected facilities was proposed by the Athletic Department after consulting with the custodial service team that was in charge of the facilities in question, and that the timing of the proposal was made to correspond with the start of winter sports and the second quarter of PE courses. 

“The selected spaces were based on two factors,” she wrote in an email to the Record. “One was limiting the space custodians would need to clean, so condensing the overall space was important; two was opening the spaces for activities that could not be done outdoors, like swimming and squash.”

In addition to providing training facilities to winter athletes, the decision also provided an new opportunity for non-varsity athletes to enroll in an in-person swimming class. Swim for Fitness, a small class limited to 16 students, is designed to provide non-varsity athletes who have a basic knowledge of swimming with the opportunity to use the newly reopened facilities. 

The changes do not come without limitations. Students who are not enrolled on active team rosters or registered in relevant PE classes will not be able to access the facilities, according to the Thursday email. Additional public health guidelines will also be implemented: Aside from wearing masks and social distancing at all times, students must also enter and leave the building through designated routes. 

As the winter season commences, the decision to reopen non-replaceable facilities is especially welcome among winter athletes. People are pleasedespecially those that cannot replicate their facility in ways that we have outdoor facilities, Director of Student Athlete Services Carolyn Miles said. 

“It’s tough, the restrictions are tough,” she continued. “But for a team like soccer, we have the field outside; but for a team like [swimming] and diving,  there’s only so many times you can cross the Green River. There’s just no replicating a 15 meter pool anywhere in and around campus.” 

Gwyneth Maloy ’21, a swimmer for women’s swimming and diving, expressed appreciation for the decision. “The decision to open the pool was definitely a nice surprise,” she said. “While we started doing organized activities with our coaches on October 15, training on land is just not the same and really nothing can compare to the feeling of getting back in the pool. 

As a senior, Maloy no longer trains for any sort of competitive season, but swimming remains an important part of her life as a great stress reliever and a way to connect with teammates. “I have also been really impressed with the outdoor lifting tent, and I can only imagine how much work went in behind the scenes to get everything up and running,” she said. “Overall, I am feeling very grateful.”

Much like the outdoor lifting tent, the decision to selectively reopen indoor facilities marks another careful step forward in the direction of reopening campus in a safe manner. 

It’s a very, very small group of people going in,” Miles said. “This is us looking at what the possibility might be if we are able to extend this to larger groups. So this is a kind of controlled test, if you will.”

Explaining the new public health guidelines to students who will use the facilities took about 35 minutes, according to Miles, although she hopes that in the future it will become a more efficient process. “That’s what a pilot program is—you cross all your Ts and dot all your Is,” she said. “You hope to uncover any sort of inconsistency or problems in your plans.”

Samantha Lazar ’21, one of the 16 students enrolled in Swim for Fitness, also noted the caution with which the College approached this “controlled test.” “The first class today was just a walk through of the pool area and an introduction to the new traffic patterns,” she wrote in an email to the Record. “It is exciting that the facilities are opening, and it is reassuring to know that the college is taking all necessary precautions to do this safely.”

“From what I saw today, I believe that the PE class is going to be run as safely as possible,” she added. 

According to Melendy, the facilities will remain open until students return home before Thanksgiving break. “These spaces will most likely not be open after November 21 when the majority of students leave campus,” she said, but continued to add that the department is “hopeful these spaces, as well as others, will be open in February,” public health permitting. 

For students who cannot access the newly reopened facilities, Melendy promised that the College will continue to explore ways to safely open more indoor spaces and to expand opportunities for all students to exercise. “The expanded Physical Education offerings are designed to meet this need,” she wrote. “We will continue to keep all activity that can be done outside, while the weather is not yet too cold or icy.”