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Austin Lifeguard Shortage Leaves Many City Pools Closed

An unidentified lifeguard watches over Barton Springs Pool in this 2011 photo. Austin's aquatic office is hustling to fill several empty lifeguard posts.

Update: The City of Austin opened three more pools over the weekend. 24 city pools are now open, while 10 remain closed.

All pools were originally scheduled to open Friday, June 6.  The city is still hiring and training lifeguards to staff the remainder of the pools.

Original story (June 12): Outside Shipe Pool Wednesday afternoon, two-year-old Redding McArdle wore two blue, inflatable arm floats – one on each arm.

But instead of splashing in the pool, Redding ran around the playground in his swim trunks because the Hyde Park neighborhood pool he’d come to swim in was closed today.

His mom, Andrea McArdle, lamented the amount of time it took to get the kids ready for the pool – nearly two hours of sunscreen application and coaxing limbs into swimsuits.

“And, there’s no pool,” said McArdle.

Credit Terrence Henry/KUT
Shipe Pool on Avenue G in Hyde Park remained closed on Wednesday, along with a dozen other city pools.

Thirteen pools have yet to open as the city tries to fill about 300 vacant lifeguard positions at city pools throughout Austin. The city kept two pools closed because of maintenance issues: while Montopolis Pool remains closed because of a water pump failure, Reed Pool opened Wednesday after maintenance crews cleaned up purple dye someone dumped into the water on Sunday. Northwest Pool closed briefly on Wednesday, as maintenance crews vacuumed up shards of glass that were found on site.

According to Parks and Recreation spokesperson Victor Ovalle the aquatic office is hustling to fill empty lifeguard posts. Just over 200 people submitted applications at a lifeguard job fair held at the aquatics office near Deep Eddy Pool Tuesday evening.

Ninety teenagers are currently undergoing certification and training. That leaves about nine more spaces for lifeguards that the city needs to fill.

But Ovalle says the aquatics divisions isn’t sure how many of last night’s applicants are already certified, or will end up completing the city’s certification process.

“If we need more lifeguards we will be setting up another lifeguard fair,” Ovalle says. “But right now they’re just assessing the situation and looking at all of the applicants that came in last night.”

This year the city needed 50 more lifeguards than last year, because of extended hours and the new Bartholomew Pool, which requires 32 lifeguards. Those pools offering swimming lessons were given priority and among the first opened so that no lessons would have to be canceled. 

Ovalle says a number of factors played into the city’s lifeguard shortage – including the required 40-hour certification process, which he said is difficult for students to complete during a busy school year.

Meanwhile, at Shipe Pool on Avenue G, Andrea McArdle held her seven-month-old daughter, Bernadette, who wore a yellow bathing suit and a white hat. She said her kids were ready to jump head first into summer activities, but the city’s delayed pool openings have stood in the way.

“They can play at the park every day all year long,” McArdle says. “It’s fun to get in the water and it’s good to get out of the house in the summertime.”

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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