Not Signed Up for Swim Lessons in Portland Yet? There’s Still Hope

Expect to see a lot of "full," "waitlist," and "members only" messages, but there are still some spots available

By Margaret Seiler June 10, 2022

Jumping right in at Peninsula Pool in North Portland. June and July classes at Peninsula are full, but the next round of signups opens June 27.

Do you have a swim-challenged child who has yet to learn the back float, let alone the backstroke? Has your elementary schooler been told to repeat the Penguin level for the fourth time? Did you declare this summer to be the summer they learn to swim, only to be greeted with a rash of waitlists when you tried to sign them up at a local park? It's a jungle out there in swim lesson registration land, but you still have options. You'll just need to be patient, mark your calendar, and set some alarms.

Portland Parks & Recreation is running lessons this summer only at its outdoor pools, citing an instructor and lifeguard staffing shortage that's shared by parks and rec agencies across the nation. Portland Public Schools lets out June 10, but this year the outdoor pools don’t open until June 22. They're slated to close for the season on August 28. June and July lessons at the city outdoor pools are almost entirely full already. (As of this writing there was one opening at Creston, two at Montavilla, and a handful at Sellwood and Wilson Pools.) Registration for August sessions opens at 12:30 p.m. June 27—maybe set an alarm for every hour starting at 9:30 a.m. just in case someone clicked the wrong time zone when they set up the system. (Trust us, this is a thing.)

The parks department’s free swim lesson week is back this year, June 27–July 1, with in-person sign-ups starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 25. If you go that route, our advice is to get there early, be nice, don't cut, and bring doughnuts to share. (Pretend it’s 1976 and you’re in line for Aerosmith tickets.)

Portland's city pools are far from the only option for kids learning to swim. For example, sign-ups opened in May for lessons at the Clark County Family YMCA and the Sherwood Regional Family YMCA (members could register earlier than nonmembers), and there are still spots available in many classes.  

Nearly all of Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District youth aquatics activities are on a waitlist, aside from a few diving classes. The length of the waitlist can vary by pool, a customer rep reports, and there might be slightly more hope for coming off the waitlist at Somerset West or Raleigh, but even those have waitlists mostly in the double digits.  

Mt Hood Aquatics’ East County Swim School still has a few openings at Reynolds Community Swim Center and Sam Barlow High. There are even some spots available for free lessons on Saturday, June 11, only. 

Staff at Cascade Athletic Club report being “swamped” this year with interest in swim lessons when registration opened in May. Most classes for June and July are already full, but it might be worth checking back for later in the summer. 

Sign-up for July swim lessons through Vancouver Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services opens at 7 a.m. June 15. Nonresidents (i.e., interloping Portlanders) can take lessons but must pay a slightly higher cost than actual Vancouverites. 

Summer lesson sign-ups at Northeast Community Center open June 14 for members and June 16 for everyone else. Children of the Sea, near St. Vincent Medical Center, is full for the summer but has a waitlist. The SafeSplash location at a 24 Hour Fitness in Beaverton had a few spots available online at various levels (including adult classes), while the SafeSplash at LA Fitness in Hillsboro shows no availability online but might be worth a phone call. 

Farber Swim School, which has two west-side locations, has rolling enrollment instead of set sessions. It can take six to 12 months to come off the waitlist for a regular slot, but there is often immediate availability for a drop-in lesson, and they report that the online schedule is updated multiple times a day. 

Sign-ups for the next round of group lessons at Mittleman Jewish Community Center start June 15, but group lessons are “members only at this time.” Private lessons, which are generally available for nonmembers at a higher price than for members, are full, and there is no waitlist. 

And some programs still haven't come back online in the pandemic, adding to the shortage of spots overall. The usual swim lessons at Gresham High remain on hold. Portland State University’s Campus Rec program hasn’t restarted its youth lessons yet “due to COVID-19,” and its normal youth program for member families is available only in fall, winter, and spring terms.