DENVER — Opening day for many community pools throughout the Front Range is fast approaching, which means staff are busy putting in the finishing touches.
“I feel like the whole city has high expectations of us,” said an employee who cleaned an Aurora pool and declined to be named for this story.
With those high expectations, a reality comes out of their hands — a lifeguard staffing shortage.
“We’re fully staffed at about 300 lifeguards for our 10 facilities and we’re currently at about 200, right around the corner,” said Alek Raymond, program and facilities manager for the City of Aurora’s Aquatics Department.
Raymond says the shortage is causing them to think outside the box, using the staff they have to open all six outdoor pools on Saturday but on a limited schedule throughout the week.
“We’re working hard to make sure every single one of our pools is open to the public this year, but because of that we’ve had to repurpose our staff and have them rotate between pools to make sure we get cover out there,” he said Raymond.
In Boulder, they address the lack of lifeguards with a different approach.
Instead of camp supervisors being solely responsible for interacting with their groups of children throughout the day, they now also become certified lifeguards, freeing up other lifeguards to work at other locations.
“It might free up one or two, but that’s huge on schedule because that means maybe we can move them to another area, maybe we can open another area for those hours instead, and that’s huge for us as a community said Jonathan Thornton, communications program director for the City of Boulder’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Denver city officials say their solution focuses on equity by prioritizing pools in underserved communities over those in affluent areas.
“We have made some decisions about the five indoor pools being closed due to fairness and appearance and the proximity of other neighborhoods to other resources, whether in DPR with other recreation centers or outdoor pools in close proximity,” said the recreation director for Denver Parks and Recovery, Leslie Pickard.
Pickard also says DPR will offer overtime for all lifeguards. Each city is doing its part to ensure that as many swimming pools as possible remain open to the communities.