The summer pool season is upon North Texas, but several cities are cutting their public pool hours as a result of a nationwide lifeguard shortage.
The City of Arlington had only 59 lifeguards out of the 160 needed during peak pool season as of mid- May. According to CBS 11 News, Arlington was forced to operate on a modified schedule while only half of its eight pools have remained open due to the shortage.
Venera Flores Stafford, Arlington Parks and Recreation Assistant Director, said the City will continue making adjustments based on its available staff throughout the pool season.
“We’ll never be short on lifeguards (at a pool) with the capacities that we have,” Stafford told CBS 11 News. “We’ll always have enough on staff because we’ll close one pool to open another. You have kids’ lives in your hands, so it’s important, and we need people out there that want to do it and have a passion for it.”
The shortage has also affected the City of Plano, which needs to hire at least 40 more lifeguards to operate its pools during the summer. Despite the shortage, Steve Stoler with the City of Plano maintains that it is in a much better place than several others across the country.
Plano will reduce open swim hours at all of its facilities, with its Jack Carter Outdoor Pool set to be closed one day a week.
“That really hurts us, but that’s one day, one place where the staffing shortage really affects us,” Stoler said.
The cities of Richardson and Mesquite have also reported their pools will operate on a modified schedule this summer due to lack of lifeguards.
Other cities across Texas have also been affected. According to a news release, the City of Austin has only 234 lifeguards on staff. That number is just 31% of the 750 lifeguards needed to operate its public pools. The City announced it will open its pools in stages as more lifeguards are hired and trained.
According to CNN, there is a lifeguard shortage nationwide, and the problem is not new. However, the situation was worsened by the pandemic that saw many pools and training sessions closed.
Another reason for the shortage is that many young people who are eligible to become lifeguards are now choosing to work in retail stores or restaurants offering better pay and benefits packages.
Tom Gill, vice president of the United States Lifesaving Association, said that government and city leaders have to offer better pay rates to entice people to become lifeguards.
“We’ve got to keep up pay rates; we’ve got to keep up motivating these lifesavers and making sure that everybody understands that at the end of the day, there is no better job than being a sort of lifesaver,” Gill said.