Lacking lifeguards: Local pools making do, but hope to hire more

Local

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The heat has hundreds rushing to their local pools and splash pads. Nationwide, there is a shortage of lifeguards.

“We started the year kind of strong. We’ve already lost six lifeguards since the summer has begun,” said Ted Nelson, the superintendent of aquatics for Hutchinson Recreation.

Day by day, Hutchinson is keeping their splash aquatic center open, but they are still feeling the heat to hire more lifeguards this summer.

“Just the shortage of applicants, and not a lot of our returners coming back,” said Nelson.

There were concerns across Kansas that some pools might have to cut back on hours due to the lack of lifeguards, but fortunately, that has not been the case in Wichita and the surrounding communities.

Hutch decided to add incentives to recruit more lifeguards.

“This year, we knew we were gonna have a shortage and so we agreed to pay back the full cost of that. It’s a good investment, and I believe it did help us get some of our newest applicants, there’s no doubt about it,” said Nelson.

Other pools, like the ones in Wichita, changed hiring policies.

“We do hire at 15 now instead of 16, so that kind of opened up a whole other group of people that we get applicants from. That’s been very helpful and very beneficial,” said Brian Hill, City of Wichita Aquatics Park Manager.

Rock River Rapids in Derby is fully staffed, but they know that can change.

“Obviously, we want to keep a close eye on that, you know, with the heat with the crowds, you got to take care of your staff and treat them right so they’ll stay around,” said Darcie Parkhurst, the director of facilities for the Derby Recreation Commission.

They are still below their pre-pandemic levels for lifeguards. Similar to others they are ready to hire more.

“If we were able to have 12 to 15 more lifeguards, we’d really be sitting comfortably,” Nelson said.

“I’d like to get maybe 20 more, and I believe we’ve got smooth sailing the rest of the summer,” Hill said.

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