PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, but for many pools, the opening will be marred by staffing shortages.
As pools in Prince George’s County prepare to open up for the season, many struggle to staff enough lifeguards.
“So we’ve had to make adjustments to our schedule where we would have longer shifts, but I’ve had to adjust it to shorter shifts in order to accommodate my staff and not overwork them,” said Cynthia Brown, Aquatic coordinator for Greenbelt Aquatic Center.
“My full-time staff along with myself have had to chip in and sit in a chair and lifeguard throughout the summer and actually throughout the year,” she continued.
The Prince George’s County Department of Park and Recreations aquatics team has also felt the effects of the shortage since the pandemic, but this time their starting to see some progress.
“We had a really difficult time recruiting lifeguards and staffing our pool. I do think that we are starting to turn the curve we have seen an increase in successful hires going into this summer,” said Tara Eggleston Stewart, Division Chief for the Aquatic and Athletic Facilities for Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.
Along with the effects of the pandemic, the increase in the cost of living also took a toll on the lifeguard industry.
“Pools in general are understaffed because people don’t they’re not making the money and the economy is not getting any better,” said Brown.
Both recreations are getting creative with recruiting.
Greenbelt Aquatic Center is offering reimbursements for their training classes, employees get bonuses for recommending others, and they’re even reaching out to the senior community. Brown says the goal is to recruit anyone who loves water and is willing to save a life.
“We are trained first responders. We have to always remain diligent we always have to maintain our level of skill because anything can happen at any time,” she said.
The Department of Parks and Recreation is also offering free training classes, and they even lowered their age requirement for lifeguards.
“Just this year we were approved to hire 15-year-old lifeguards, so that opened up another door of potential candidates for us to hire,” said Eggleston Stewart.
As Memorial Day weekend approaches, Eggleston Stewart and Brown say they have enough but with summer coming they’re always looking for more.
“There’s never enough lifeguards for us to make sure that all of our facilities are adequately staffed and conservative public,” said Eggleston Stewart.
If you want to learn more about how to become a lifeguard this summer visit Greenbelt Aquatic Center, and the The Department of Parks and Recreation.