AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is working around the clock to get lifeguards trained and staffed at city pools, after yet another summer of lifeguard shortages.
“Last week when we were trying to finish up our schedules for opening day, we were met with the unfortunate situation of having to make some quick decisions to keep pools going and keep people safe,” said Wayne Simmons, Aquatic Program Manager for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Several pools remain closed as the city works to fill hundreds of vacancies: Shipe Pool, Montopolis Pool, Martin Pool and Springwood Pool.
The city only notified citizens a few days ago, and some people didn’t get the memo.
“You certainly come to expect these services,” said Sigmund Bloom, who tried to take his kids to Shipe Pool on Monday. “The sign said they were opening June 6, and sadly the pool is still saying no trespassing.”
The Hyde Park Neighborhood Association sponsored three lifeguards this year, hoping to help the city out and possibly guarantee guards for their pool. However, the city of Austin says the number of returning lifeguards was lower than expected. Officials had to prioritize which pools would open first, to help the most people.
“There’s a lot of frustration I’d have to say – a lot of heartbroken kids. Because the opening of the pool is usually the marker of the beginning of summer vacation,” said Alison Young, with Friends of Shipe Park. “When it’s delayed at the last minute, as you can imagine, everybody is pretty upset.”
They city says they and have been working to recruit new lifeguards for months, just like last year.
Part of their strategy includes:
- Hiring incentives
- Social media marketing
- Increased salary to $13.07
- Visiting high schools
- Offering a PE program at two high schools to certify students: LBJ and Reagan
“We’re continually looking for ways to make life-guarding cool again,” said Simmons. “And we’re seeing this nationwide. I’ve talked to colleagues around the country that are experiencing similar shortages and challenges.”
The city has a little more than 300 lifeguards right now and about 100 more in training this week. That’s still nearly 200 lifeguards short of the minimum goals for staffing.
Simmons says once more lifeguards are hired and trained they will staff them immediately at local pools. There’s no timeline as to when all the pools will be operating. While they hope to get all pools open by the end of the summer, that will depend on how many lifeguards they can hire.
For more information, and to apply for a lifeguard position, call (512) 974-9330, or find more information here.