San Diego YMCA Faces Glass Enclosure Dilemma

The Copley-Price YMCA in San Diego serves a diverse population from Muslims to Orthodox Jews to Somali immigrants, but a glass enclosure over its outdoor pool is causing concerns from a group of Muslim women who use the pool after hours.

The indoor swimming pool at the Copley-Price YMCA in San Diego features a glass enclosure that lets Southern California's legendary sun shine in. Although that may be a welcome design element for many swimmers, a group of Muslim women taking swim classes after hours are not so sure.

A California non-profit group, United Women's East Africa Support Team (UWEAST), has contracted with the Y for after-hours swim classes for its female Muslim members. The classes have become so popular that the group had to limit participation to the first 40 of the 100-plus members who expressed interest.

Sarah Abdi, executive director for UWEAST, called the classes an "awesome program," but the glass enclosure over the pool could enable the public to look through the glass and see the swimmers in what Muslims would consider immodest dress. Even tight-fitting Islamic swimsuits that cover their limbs and heads can make Muslim women feel uncomfortable in mixed company, Abdi says.

Thus the group met recently with Copley-Price Y staff to try to find a solution. Among the suggestions Abdi likes is some type of movable shade that could be opened and closed. Her group is looking at ways to raise funds to help pay for such a shade, she says.

Copley-Price YMCA Outreach Director Andrew Holets applauded the after-hours swim program and says a solution is within reach. He notes that the classes take place after hours, and that the only opportunity to see into the pool at the street level is through one side that is open to the facility's outdoor pool. After hours, he points out, that outdoor pool is closed and empty, so no one should be present to look in. That said, Holets adds that he is in favor of all solutions that show sensitivity to the area's diverse City Heights community, including a basketball league for a nearby Orthodox Jewish community and the introduction of a Somali family night aimed at offering taxi drivers exercise and family time after their shifts. 

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