Cities worried lifeguard shortage could sink pool season

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, and the official start to pool season.

But with staffing shortages a growing concern, communities are scrambling to adjust their operations if they can’t get adequate staff in place.

“We’ve been in a national lifeguard shortage for about the past five years now. The pandemic certainly didn’t help that,” admits Seth Bower, the Groveport Aquatics Manager.

With seasonal lifeguard spots still to fill, the Aquatic Center in Groveport is providing incentives to encourage young people to sign up, as they prepare to open their gates in just three days.

“We do a referral bonus. So, there is a referral bonus if any of their friends end up working for us,” Bower describes.

Right now, Bower says he is short 15 lifeguards– roughly a quarter of their target number.
That means the use of some pool features, like “The Lazy River,” could be limited.

“We have to have our lifeguards go through a certification course, so we can’t just hire anyone off the street,” Bower adds.

Columbus is one of the few communities that expects to fully staff all its pools this summer.

“We do still have some spots that are open, but we are on track to hire all the lifeguards we need,” confirms Kerry Francis with Columbus Recreation & Parks.

The Lincoln Park Aquatic Center in Marion won’t open Memorial Day Weekend. Mayor Scott Schertzer blames the pandemic.

“In the state of Ohio, your lifeguard certification is good for two years. So, if you worked for us in 2019 and then we were not open last year because of the pandemic, then your certification has expired,” Schertzer describes.

In Coshocton, Lake Park will still open this weekend as scheduled, but with just half of their normal lifeguard staff.

“We do have sections of the pool that we can close, but we’re adjusting. This is new to everyone,” says Director Lori Everhart. But it’s the same experience that is their hope for visitors to the pool this summer.

“We are committed to open and open every day that we possibly can. We are hoping for a full-fledged, regular summer,” Everhart adds.

Also in Central Ohio, Dublin and Hilliard both say they are in a good spot relative to staffing concerns.

Gahanna says while hiring has been a struggle, they do have adequate staff to open safely this weekend.

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