Seattle plans to offer single-gender swimming opportunities at four of its city pools.
The program will serve girls and women who cannot swim in a co-ed environment because of cultural, religious or personal reasons.
Swimming in a public pool is forbidden for Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and some East African women.
It is considered immodest to see men without their chests covered and to be seen swimming unless the woman is wearing a full-body swimsuit known as the “burkini.”
Beginning in March, 2013, Seattle Parks and Recreation will host women-only swimming at Meadowbrook, Medgar Evers and Southwest pools. The program will also be extended to Rainier Beach Pool when it re-opens in fall 2013.
Single-gender swim participants will pay standard public attendance fees, according to the Mayor’s office.
The program will be held at times when the pools have the traditionally lowest usage.
Staff will cover the windows during the swim, and only female lifeguards will be employed.
Seattle Parks and Recreation has offered single-gender swimming at three public pools for the past decade, but that was through private rentals paid for with grants.
Outside funding of the rentals has been unreliable, so the city decided to create its own program.
Earlier this year Seattle’s public pools were in the news after breast cancer survivor, who wanted to swim topless after her double mastectomy, was told she couldn’t.
Parks officials initially told Jodi Jaecks she couldn’t swim topless. She wanted to swim laps but said tops were uncomfortable to wear because of scars from her surgery.
The city later relented after media organizations exposed the story, and now has more inclusive guidelines for Seattle’s public pools.
By LINDA THOMAS