John & Lory Kirl, owners of Little Otter Swim School, are innovators.

We Love Innovators! (like John & Lory Kirk)

Innovators represent what Jackrabbit strives to be for its customers

Jackrabbit customers, John and Lory Kirk of Little Otter Swim School, are truly pushing the innovation envelope with their amazing new school that opened in Huntersville, NC – VERY close to our corporate headquarters.

The second Little Otter location, the Huntersville school has one up on the Kirk’s original swim school in another suburb of Charlotte – Matthews – from the very beginning. After all, the Kirks began offering lessons from their first location that was launched in an existing location that they moved into and could simply upgrade to meet their needs.

They’ve been providing swim lessons from the Matthews location for 10 years. And during that 10 years, they’ve been collecting ideas and information for the time when they could purchase land, design and build their own facility – with all of the attributes that they believe create the best environment for providing a safe place to teach children to swim.

John and Lory spent time looking at how their business works, what families and students need, what industry peers are doing, as well as building and technology innovations.

With their top priorities of keeping kids safe and having good lessons at the forefront, John and Lory opened the Huntersville location of Little Otter in April of 2014.

The school has everything you’d expect:

A great pool, filtration, changing areas and showers, an observation room, meeting rooms for parent meetings or staff meeting and plenty of office space for staff.

But John and Lory have gone beyond the expected to set themselves apart from other swim lesson providers and quickly enroll more than 850 students – just at the new Huntersville swim school.

But then unexpected features catch your eye:

  • The garage doors installed to allow the school to use the Carolinas’ beautiful weather to their advantage and ventilate with fresh air very easily. This helps to ventilate – and gives the dehumidifiers a break – and saves on energy use.
  • The massive pool that uses walkways and dividers to section off pool areas for lessons. The walkways also allows instructors and managers to position themselves in the very center of the pool so that they have the best possible vantage point on what their students are doing. (The Kirks are the first folks to build this kind of pool.)
  • The dividers also provide the smallest students with cozier learning space because sometimes the bigness of the entire pool is overwhelming (and distracting) for them.
  • The visible filtration system that reminds you of a microbrewery allows Little Otter to be totally transparent with one of the most critical areas of their operations. Little Otter’s filtration is far above industry standard required to keep swimmers safe – and parents can watch it work anytime they’d like.  Along with the filtration, Little Otter also operates a dehumidification system that keeps Little Otters’ students from feeling clammy and sticky as can happen in schools where good dehumidifiers are not installed.
  • The thermal blanket that keeps the pool temperature constant – even during the winter. Little Otter doesn’t want any students to get too chilled to happily and healthily learn to swim.
  • The mosaic shelf that provides seating for children waiting for their turns runs the entire perimeter of the pool. Children no longer wait in awkward lines and never have to re-acclimate to the water during their lessons.
  • The pre-swim shower area is directly on deck but surrounded by clear plexiglass so that instructors (and parents) can always have their students within sight – even if they are in the middle of the pool observing student from the walkway.
  • Of course, the changing rooms are separated – and not just with plexiglass – for privacy but have modern accoutrements like hair dryers and swim suit spinners.
  • The parent’s observation area is complete with Internet access and work space and there is plenty of space in the changing area with shelves, tables, and benches that fit the needs of all ages of students.
  • Even the staff display presented on the walls of the observation area is modern. The rails that hold the hanging staff pictures follow the whimsically curved walls.

Subtle nuances and standout features are the norm around this place. For example, Little Otter students have a photo booth area where their milestones and accomplishments can be recorded so that no special day is ever forgotten.

A flat screen display is one of the coolest features – for both parents and Little Otter staff. It dynamically displays upcoming classes complete with class codes so parents can quickly and easily recognize special information about their child’s class that day. This display is driven by Jackrabbit and saves staff more than 3 hours a week plus reams of paper that the paper-based alternative requires. It also just looks much neater. It’s more professional and much easier for all parents to see as soon as they come in the door. And it is “greener” – which also fits into the way the Huntersville swim school operates. In fact, Jackrabbit also helps John and Lory to innovate – as is obvious from the above-referenced display. John came up with the idea and then wasted no time in worked with his favorite web developer to create an API to allow Jackrabbit to talk to the flat screen in the right way.

This isn’t the only time the Kirks have added an innovative layer on top of their Jackrabbit system. To includes the subtle nuances of pre-requisites in class selection in the online registration system available in Jackrabbit, John worked with his developer to write customizations into Jackrabbit! We love this! We believe it is nothing short of amazing when customers are inspired to push our solution beyond what it was built to do.

John and Lory have poured their hearts and souls into their new school. Every detail is well-thought out and perfectly appointed. Just consider the thought that was put into choosing the beautifully colored schools of fish that hang above the pool. Well, you can’t really say hang. It looks more like the schools are swimming in the air. The designs are carried over into the pool floor where you can look down and see brightly colored fish as well.  This isn’t just for show, of course. These eye-catching fish help to entertain and distract young students who may have a little apprehension about their new surroundings and new experience in the pool. The fish can be reference points to help instructors continue to engage with their child as they get more comfortable and gain more confidence with the water.

The School is so amazing that it almost challenges you to look around to see if there is possibly anything that John and Lory missed.  I don’t think so. On my first tour, at every turn, I found myself saying “Oh, wow! I never thought of that….”

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