Lifeguard shortage impacting community pools across Kansas

A sign in Mount Hope guides the public to the city's park and public swimming pool.
A sign in Mount Hope guides the public to the city's park and public swimming pool.(KWCH)
Published: May. 1, 2023 at 11:30 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Where are the lifeguards? That’s a question communities across Kansas are trying to answer as summer nears. Many face a lack of applicants, with only a few weeks to go before pools are expected to open. For some, the unavailability of trained lifeguards could man pools don’t open on time.

In northwest Sedgwick County, Mount Hope is the latest example of a town struggling to find lifeguards. Mount Hope is preparing for pool season short of what it needs. Two co-managers will have to serve as lifeguards for the upcoming season. Only two others have applied to work at the pool. Four isn’t enough when it comes to lifeguards.

“We really like to have about seven or eight to choose from,” Mount Hope City Clerk Leslie Stephan said of lifeguards for the city’s pool.

She said having enough for rotations helps to keep lifeguards from getting burnt out.

Stephan said the lifeguard shortage was a problem last year, as well, serious enough to lower the lifeguard age limit from 16 to 15. For this year, the requirement is back to 16.

Plans call for Mount Hope opening its pool by Memorial Day Weekend. If the lifeguard positions aren’t filled it could back up the opening date to early June, Stephan said.

She said she doesn’t want to see the pool’s opening delayed until June. but safety comes first.

“Because we have to make sure that our kids are safe. That’s our primary function is to make sure those children are safe,” Stephan said. “So, if that means we don’t have enough people, we need to wait until we do.”