With Another Lifeguard Shortage, Some City Pools to Open Late
At a city-run job fair back in March, 15-year-old Jake Santema awaited an interview with city staff as part of the process to become a summer lifeguard signed up to be a lifeguard.
“I’m a little nervous of the feeling of having someone’s life on my hands,” said Santema. “It sounds nerve-wracking a little bit.”
It’s this level of responsibility and 40-plus hours of training, said Wayne Simmons with the Aquatic Division of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department, which could deter young people from signing up – and which may be one thorn in the fight to staff city pools with an adequate number of lifeguards. Nearly 300 lifeguards are ready to go, but the city needs anywhere from 500 to 550 to cover the city’s roughly three dozen pools.
“I talk to a lot of colleagues from other states and a lot of agencies are having similar issues,” said Simmons, noting how a shortage of high school-aged lifeguards seems to be a national trend. “The younger staff we typically target, the high school students, have so much more commitments during the summer than maybe they had previously.”
Because of the shortage, several pools will open later than expected this season.
The following pools have yet-to-be-determined opening dates:
- Shipe Pool
- Montopolis Pool
- Martin Pool
- Springwoods Pool
Other pools will have modified schedules, meaning they will be open for some programming, but won't operate under a regular schedule:
- Brentwood Pool – programming only; 10 a.m. to noon daily
- Metz Pool – programming & recreational swim; 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily
- Northwest Pool – will close daily at 7:30 p.m.
- Patterson Pool – programming only; 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily
- Reed Pool – programming only; 10:00 a.m. to noon daily
- Canyon Vista – programming only; 8 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. & 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily
- Givens Pool – programming only; 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. & 7 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily
- Dove Springs Pool – programming only; 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily
These pools will open the week of June 6th and operate on a regular schedule – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.
- Garrison Pool
- Mabel Davis Pool
- Walnut Creek Pool
- Balcones Pool
- Dick Nichols Pool
- Rosewood Pool
- Ditmar Pool
- Murchison Pool
- Ramsey Pool
- Westenfield Pool
Bartholomew, Deep Eddy and Stacy pools will all open as scheduled.
Simmons said a recent pay increase for lifeguards will hopefully incentivize more signups. Council voted last month to increase base pay for lifeguards to $13.03 an hour, which is the city’s official "living wage." Previously, start pay ranged from $8 to $10.25, depending on age.
For Santema, lifeguarding this summer will be a second gig. (He’ll also be working at the Paramount Theatre). And although his father, Dan, said recently the training was intense, his son was able to complete it. Now they’re just awaiting his pool assignment.
This story was produced as part of KUT's reporting partnership with the Austin Monitor.
This post has been updated to reflect the rescheduling of some city pool openings.