Philly's lifeguard shortage could lead to pool closures this summer
A lifeguard shortage is looming again ahead of Philly's summer swimming season.
Driving the news: The city only has enough lifeguards to open 18 of the city's 65 available outdoor pools this summer, as of April 14, Charlotte Merrick, a spokesperson for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, told Axios.
- Pool openings will begin on a rolling basis during the last two weeks of June.
Why it matters: The vacancies could result in reduced hours — or even closures — during the warm summer months, when many families seek out city pools for safe places to play.
Flashback: The city opened only 42 pools last summer, said Merrick, who attributed most of the closures to the lack of lifeguards during the pandemic.
- Others were shuttered due to ongoing construction or mechanical issues.
By the numbers: 228 lifeguards have signed up to work in city pools this summer. The city needs to hire 350-400 to open all pools.
- While Philly has recruited more guards than this time last year, the figure is less than what was typical for this period before the pandemic.
- Additionally, the city will operate the indoor pool at Lincoln High School this summer.
Zoom in: Philly boosted starting pay this year to attract more applicants. Rookie guards' rates will start at $16 an hour, beginning July 1. That's up 76 cents compared with last year.
- Experienced guards can earn up to $18 an hour this summer.
- Plus: Free training and certification classes are available for applicants ages 16-24 who commit to working at a city pool.
What they're saying: "The pool opening plan is driven by available staffing, geography, neighborhood need, past pool usage data, and other nearby cooling options like spraygrounds," Merrick said.
- Some parts of the city have a much higher concentration of pools, she noted.
- "If neighborhoods have multiple pools, we will seek to open the largest or the pool with highest visitation in order to serve the most residents," Merrick added.
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