Waterlogged: Criticized pool pass pricing sunk
Splashing in the deep end of bad publicity, the city of Charlottesville has formally ended a pricing plan on summer pool passes that charged more to students going to private schools.
Following the pricing change, the City's acting parks director, Brian Daly, defended the original policy and denies that public scrutiny led to the change.
"The whole point of having this rate was to be as inclusive as possible," Daly says. Daly explains the city's primary concern was ensuring that the poorest students in Charlottesville would be able to afford summer swim passes. Though he admits being aware of some controversy around the pricing, he says he never personally heard any complaints, and didn't clarify when asked what prompted his department to "broaden" its policy.
The City's website now defines a Charlottesville City Student as "any student (excluding college students) that has residency within the city of Charlottesville."
The original pricing would have had public school students in grades K-12 paying $20 for a summer pass, with private school students over 48 inches (a height some children reach in kindergarten) paying a pre-season price of $39, the same rate as adults and nearly double the fee for their public school counterparts.
The pricing disparity created an uproar, with former Republican city councilor and current radio talk show host Rob Schilling raging about the policy on his blog and claiming that the pricing structure was the city's way to "punish" families who send their children to private schools.
Daly insists that Schilling's reaction was uncommon.
“Most people are very excited,” says Daly, who estimates that more than 800 passes have been sold for the summer. The total capacity for both outdoor pools is 525 swimmers (300 at Washington Park; 225 at the new Onesty pool at Meade Park). And Daly maintains that even the original pricing gave every city resident a "significant discount,” compared to the $79 charged to non-resident swimmers over 48 inches.
“We were trying to provide a rate for those whose income might be a barrier,” Daly says. “We want kids in the pool.”
Schilling says he's happy to see the change in policy.
“They did what was right. They were doing what was wrong, and they changed it,” he says. “Once it was brought to light," he adds, seeming to take credit for the change in policy, "they had no choice but to react.”
But just correcting the pricing structure doesn't go quite far enough in his Schilling's opinion. “Whoever came up with that idea in the first place," he says, "should be fired."
The city has extended its preseason sale prices until June 20, around the expected opening of Onesty pool. The passes can be purchased at the Washington Park pool, Crow pool, or in the City Hall Annex.