Teenagers were not thrilled to find out Tuesday that they had to produce IDs to go swimming in Schenectady.
But they admitted, reluctantly, that the rule made sense, and teen after teen got in line to smile for the camera and get an ID.
Many already have identification cards from school — they are issued at every middle school and the high school — but some said they didn’t bother to hang on to those cards.
“I lost mine the first day I got it,” said Destiny Conley, 13.
She’s just under the age limit, so all she had to do was write down her parents’ phone number when she signed in at the Central Park pool. But as soon as she turns 14, she’ll have to turn in an ID.
Conley and friends weren’t thrilled.
“It sucks,” said friend Ambre Rogers, also 13. They were with two friends who were already 14 — and neither had their ID. “Mine’s at home,” Quasia Henry said.
Alyssa Bobbitt added, “I don’t think you should have to have them. They should let you go swim. It’s a pool!”
They weren’t alone in their opinions. Head lifeguard Taylor DeThorne spent the day calmly repeating the reasons for the new rule as groups of teenagers objected. She told them they’d want her to call their mothers if something happened to them in the pool. She assured them the rule would help her keep out the swimmers who misbehaved at any city pool. And one by one, she won them all over.
“There hasn’t been any problems so far. It’s too hot. They want to go swimming,” she said simply.
Among those who were convinced was Marisa Rodriguez, 14, who stood in the hot sun for 10 minutes waiting for her turn to get a free ID through the county sheriff’s safe child program.
Rodriguez said she was persuaded that having an ID would be a good safety measure, particularly if she wound up unconscious and no one knew her name.
“What if something happens?” Rodriguez said. “Half the time our mothers don’t even know we’re here.”
Her friend Unique Goodman, 14, said she liked the rule because it would help lifeguards enforce suspensions for misbehavior. In the past, swimmers simply went to a different city pool or came back when the lifeguard who kicked them out wasn’t looking.
“You need to know who’s coming into your pool,” Goodman said. “How do you know somebody’s not going to come up in here with a group of friends and they’ve just finished smoking? A lot of kids don’t come here with their parents.”
That’s why acting Mayor Gary McCarthy wants to collect IDs.
“We want parents to have a level of confidence when sending their children here, that they’ll have a good time and people will play by the rules,” he said. “It was recommended by the staff. It allows us to have a little better control when kids engage in less than desirable conduct.”
Staff at the entrance of each pool will have a list of all children who are not allowed to swim. In the past, the list didn’t help because children could make up a name — but now they’ll have to show an ID.
It’s not yet clear whether that will be effective, but parents gave the effort high marks.
“My kids will never be without me [this summer], but at 13, that would be great,” said Lavere Birch, who brought his 8-year-old and 2-year-old sons to the pool. “People would know who they were and who to contact in case something happened.”
The rule wasn’t slowing many children down. An hour after the pool opened, 200 swimmers had already signed in.