Aug 11, 2022 - News

Short staffed: Pool closures called a crisis in Des Moines

Illustration of "Help Wanted" written at the bottom of a pool.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Ongoing pool closures are a public health crisis, Des Moines Parks and Recreation board member Loyd Ogle tells Axios.

  • He's calling on the city to devise a new plan to resolve staffing shortages.

Why it matters: In addition to recreation and physical activity, pools offer relief from extreme heat.

  • Low-income families are being disproportionately affected, Ogle contends.

Catch up fast: Despite increasing wages and boosting recruitment efforts last year, DSM's aquatic staffing struggles resulted in rotational closure of splash facilities.

The big picture: The problem is national in scope and may continue because fewer people have taken lifeguard training in recent years, the Guardian reports.

  • Pandemic and labor market factors are attributing to the employment pinch.

Zoom in: The problem has gotten worse in recent weeks as student workers prepare to return for fall classes.

  • This month Ankeny limited the capacity at Prairie Ridge Aquatic Center.

What they're saying: Des Moines resident Patty Wengert asked the City Council in June to make aquatic staffing a bigger priority.

  • The parks board issued a letter of support for the city's recruitment efforts but the message is clear that more must be done before next season, Ogle told us.
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