Philly still searching for more lifeguards to open city pools this summer

The goal is to have enough staffing to open more than 60 pools in the city. Last year, only 47 were able to open because of staffing issues.

A closeup of a lifeguard stand at Samuel Recreation Center

Philadelphia lifeguards receive training at Samuel Recreation Center. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The city of Philadelphia is still hoping to find enough people to staff the maximum number of pools this summer. Last year, swimmers were able to visit just 47 pools due to a shortage of lifeguards.

Deputy Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bill Salvatore said 62 pools could be opened this year, but only if they have enough lifeguards to staff them.

“We’re working really hard in Philadelphia to get our pools open, but we need staff to do it,” Salvatore said. “We felt those effects last year, not being able to open all our pools. But we’re really confident with things we put in place this year to be able to open all available pools.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The lifeguard shortage here is mirrored on a national level as cities around the country struggle to get enough workers to watch the pools. Last year, about a third of the nation’s public pools were closed or had reduced hours due to a lack of lifeguards, according to the American Lifeguard Association.

The city is offering a bonus again this year for certified guards who work the summer. “Any candidate who passes their lifeguard screening and submits a completed application to our aquatics office by April 15th is eligible for a $1,000 lifeguard bonus, Up till May 15th. If all that is complete, you get a $500 bonus,” Salvatore said.

It appears as if the incentive program is paying off. The number of people signing up for training programs to become lifeguards is four times higher than last year’s rate. As a result, the city has opened another indoor location for training.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Salvatore is hopeful, although he wouldn’t guarantee, that there will be enough lifeguards to open all the pools.

In addition to pools, the city is promoting a widespread effort designed to keep more youth motivated this summer, which includes summer camps, playstreets, and free lunches.

For those who don’t have a working pool in their area, the city will open spray-grounds, with sprinklers starting Memorial Day weekend and staying on seven days a week until Labor Day.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal