Apr 25, 2022 - News

Philly's lifeguard shortage could lead to pool closures this summer

Illustration of a sign saying "Off Duty" but the O is a life preserver.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

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.

Of note: The city has 70 outdoor pools, but five — Vare, Heitzman, Chew, Shuler, and Kingsessing — are scheduled to be closed this summer due to renovations or maintenance.

  • 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.

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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