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National lifeguard shortage impacting Southern Colorado pools

National lifeguard shortage impacting Southern Colorado pools
Posted at 6:25 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 07:46:02-04

SOUTHERN COLORADO — Hot summer days like today means you may want to escape the summer heat at your community pool, but a nationwide shortage of lifeguards is now affecting local pools and their hours of operation.

The gates at the the Pueblo West community pool at Lovell Park will be closed to the public for the rest of summer. It's the second year in a row the pool has been closed. Last year, it was closed because of COVID-19 restrictions, but this year it's been hard to hire lifeguards.

"We were really disappointed that it closed. We buy a family pass and it's afternoon entertainment for the kids everyday, so it was a big part of what we do in the summer," said April Maez, whose family uses the pool every year. "Hopefully next year, they'll be staffed and ready to go."

The Pueblo West pool has been a summer hangout spot for more than 50 years. It's run and operated by the Pueblo West Metropolitian District, who made the difficult decision to close the pool for the second year in a row.

"We hope that our community understands that this is a nationwide shortage. We did everything that we thought possible, including hosting our own certification classes in March and in April," said
Samantha Dosen, the communications manager for the Pueblo West Metropolitan District. "We posted the jobs on social media, our website, and also tried reaching out to local high schools to get anyone to sign up."

Dosen says there's been a lack of interest in becoming a lifeguard, and for those who took classes, only half were able to get certified. While safety is a top priority, the city also wants to remind the community being a lifeguard is a job that requires a written test on CPR and first aid and great responsibility.

Another issue the city noticed was, "a lot of the lifeguards we weren't able to hire, are student athletes, and because of COVID-19 a lot of their athletic programs were pushed back," said Dosen.

The YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region is also seeing a shortage. Jenna Press, the director of marketing and communications said the organization has only hired about 50% of the lifeguards needed for summer. She mentioned many of whom they hire, were lifeguards in previous years, but because the COVID-19 pandemic impacted most of last season, many lifeguards didn't return this year. Certifications also ran out for many of the lifeguards.

In order to ensure swimmer's safety, the YMCA has limited hours at indoor pools, but will be keeping regular hours of operation for outdoor pools. As the organizations hires more lifeguards throughout the summer, pool hours may change.

Press also mentioned the the YMCA has increased pay for lifeguards and they're offering a bonus for new employees on their first pay check.

Other summer activities like splash pads and Movies in the Park are still taking place in Pueblo.