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Some community pools struggling to stay open due to lifeguard shortage across Kan., nationwide

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:47 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Throughout Kansas, a shortage of lifeguards could keep some community pools from staying open this summer. The shortage is a problem that swimming pools across the nation are facing.

In Kansas, the McPherson Waterpark is among the facilities getting by, but also feeling the impact from the lifeguard shortage. Aquatics Director Kyle Roberts said the McPherson Waterpark has 29 lifeguards. He’d prefer to have about 40.

“It makes it a big tough,” Roberts said. “I don’t have as much flexibility with the schedule and it makes it harder for guards that need a sub because they’re sick. I don’t have that backup.”

Roberts said in McPherson, they’re able to make it work for now, but that’s not the case in some rural areas.

“There’s some small communities struggling to open at all because they don’t have lifeguards,” Roberts said.

In northwest, Kansas, the town of Oberlin is closing its pool Saturday due a lack of lifeguards. The lifeguards the pool does have, have other commitments including sports camps.

Roberts said not having enough lifeguards is nothing new, but never to this extent. He said COVID-19 made it more difficult for new lifeguards to be certified.

“We lose out on an entire class,” he said. “I rely on returning staff year to year and to only have to hire a certain number of people. Typically, I only hire 15 people a year. This year, I hired 30, so I’m essentially hiring for 2020 and 2021 because last year, we relied on returning staff alone.”

Pools unable to open at all last year are struggling even more. But even with fewer lifeguards, communities re determined to keep pools open and safe this summer.

‘I think people are just ready to enjoy the pool and spend some time outside,” Roberts said.

Pools across the state are still taking applications for new lifeguards and swim lesson instructors throughout the summer. With most cases, communities will help with certification, which is good for two years.

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