TOPEKA, KAN. – A national shortage of lifeguards is being felt in Shawnee County, Kan. With swimming pools and aquatic centers opening May 29, Memorial Day weekend, Shawnee County Parks + Recreation is short of its desired number of lifeguards needed to safely operate all of its aquatic facilities and is working to recruit more.
Google “national lifeguard shortage” and articles report that what used to be an attractive summer gig for students is being replaced with summer internships, summer school and other endeavors.
“This is a pattern we’re seeing all over the country,” said Dave Allacher, aquatics supervisor. Ideally, Allacher would like to have 220 lifeguards to cover all aquatic facilities while taking into account summer vacations, lifeguards who have to work around second jobs or sports activities and staff who leave early for college. As of May 18, the department had 137 lifeguards with more indicating interest but who have not yet completed the application process.
Most, if not all aquatic facilities will open, said Allacher, but safety remains the number one priority for SCP+R.
“There is no compromising on the safety of our patrons,” said Allacher. If we don’t have enough staff on a given day, we may not open a facility.”
Allacher adds that if there are not enough lifeguards willing to work in a certain location, his division may not be able to open that pool.
Anyone interested in serving as a lifeguard may visit parks.snco.us to apply. The pay is $8 to $9 per hour and training is available.
Shawnee County Parks + Recreation includes nearly 60 miles of trails, 2,625 acres of parks and 320 annual days of sporting activities. In addition, the department offers recreation programs, educational programs and golf. A combination of tax dollars, user fees and private donations enables Shawnee County Parks and Recreation to offer parks, sporting and aquatic facilities with state-of-the art features, and beautiful, nationally recognized gardens.