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SOS: Austin lifeguard shortage could prevent public pool openings

The city of Austin does not have enough lifeguards to open all of its pools. (Emma Freer/Austonia)

The city of Austin has a shallow supply of lifeguards heading into the summer season. Until more are hired, it will be unable to expand opening hours or open additional pools, the city says.

The parks and recreation department currently has 150 lifeguards—or around 20% of its needed 750 lifeguard force—and attributed the shortage to the pandemic, which caused a year-long hiring freeze and training disruptions. Lifeguards are paid $15 an hour.

The city resumed hiring lifeguards in March, but pandemic precautions continue to limit the number of people who can be trained at a time. Austin Public Health officials announced fully vaccinated people can gather without masks or distancing in most situations earlier this week, following similar guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The parks and recreation department's aquatics team has been teaching classes at capacity since hiring resumed in March. As more lifeguards are certified, they will be assigned equitably to pools throughout the city, according to a Thursday press release.

Springwoods, Bartholomew, Big Stacy, Barton Springs and Deep Eddy pools are currently open. (Barton Springs Pool will require reservations starting Friday.) The splash pads at Bartholomew, Chestnut, Liz Carpenter and Metz will open Saturday. Govalle and Shipe pools are due to open June 5. An additional 35 pools and splash pads remain closed.


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