Jun 21, 2022 - News

Philadelphia opens pools on a rolling basis amid lifeguard shortage

Children playing in a pool.
Children playing in a pool. Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia

Philly will begin opening outdoor public pools on a rolling basis Tuesday, while at least a dozen will remain closed for a second consecutive year due to the city's lifeguard shortage.

Driving the news: 50 city pools — or about 80% of Philly's 63 available pools — are on track to open this season, by July 15 at the latest.

  • Pools with later start dates will remain open longer in the season, according to city officials.

Why it matters: Pools offer a respite from the heat and give young people a safe place to go at a time when gun violence — already hovering around historic highs — typically increases.

The big picture: The American Lifeguard Association says lifeguard shortages nationwide could prevent about a third of more than 300,000 public pools from opening this summer, Axios' Erin Doherty reports.

Flashback: Last summer, the city opened only 42 pools, with 224 lifeguards.

  • Philly pools didn't open at all in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The latest: Approximately 290 lifeguards signed up by this month’s deadline, making up the bulk of the roughly 500 pool staff working this summer, according to the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

  • 15 city pools will remain closed for a second year in a row due to staffing, including Ziehler and Belfield in North Philly, and Baker in West Philly. But the city is opening nine pools that were closed last year.
  • The majority of pools opening this summer are located in low-income communities, where annual household incomes are $45,000 or less, according to the city.

Between the lines: This summer, the city has put in place split scheduling at some of its pools, which will operate with reduced daily hours or fewer days of the week.

  • Lifeguards are also eligible for overtime pay to work in a high-need area.

What they're saying: "I can't stress enough how challenging this process is but we are really trying to be as innovative and flexible as possible," Kathryn Ott Lovell, the city's Parks and Recreation commissioner, said about opening as many pools as possible this year during a news conference on Friday.

What to watch: The first pools to open for the season Tuesday are Fishtown Recreation Center, Mill Creek Playground and Samuel Recreation Center.

  • On Wednesday, pools will open at Barry Playground, Lawncrest Recreation Center and Penrose Playground.

Of note: Public pools offer free swimming lessons.

  • More than 90 spraygrounds will operate daily throughout the city this summer.

Go deeper: Visit the city's website for a full pool opening schedule.

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