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After years of staffing woes, Austin finally hires enough lifeguards by start of swim season

Tuesday, July 11, 2023 by Nina Hernandez

Austin finally has enough lifeguards.

This week, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department celebrated the hiring of more than 1,000 lifeguards this swim season. That allowed PARD to open all 32 operational pools in its expansive aquatics system and extend hours of operation at Deep Eddy Pool.

In recent years, Austin has suffered from lifeguard shortages that threatened the city’s ability to open pools in the summer. The shortages also impacted the city’s ability to provide swim lessons and other aquatics services. A city auditor’s report found that the outdated and unnecessarily complicated application system was incorrectly turning away hundreds of applicants.

The city streamlined its application process, raised its minimum wage to $20 per hour, and conducted a dedicated outreach campaign. In March, the department reported that hiring was back on track and it anticipated being able to open pools on time for the 2023 swim season.

On Monday, PARD announced via press release that it has hired 1,000 lifeguards – enough to fully staff its 32 pools and 11 splash pads throughout the city, which are now open for the season.

“The Department would like to thank Mayor (Kirk Watson) and Council, City leadership, Human Relations, partner organizations, communications staff, and the dedicated lifeguards who helped make this possible,” the press release reads.

In addition to the raised wage, Council also agreed to offer lifeguards a free uniform, a Capital Metro bus pass, and a $400 training stipend for those who work a specific number of hours during the season.

The press release also recognizes the work of the Aquatics staff, which contends with a geographically scattered and aging system that requires constant maintenance and engineering ingenuity to keep going.

“Maintaining 32 operational pools and 11 splash pads is also a testament to the hard work of the Aquatic Maintenance team who routinely resolve a multitude of issues related to Austin’s aging aquatic infrastructure as noted in the Department’s Aquatic Vision Plan,” the release states.

Council voted to approve the Aquatic Master Plan, which points out $152 million to $193 million in necessary repairs, in 2018.

Now that PARD has hired a sufficient number of lifeguards, the hiring period is closed. However, interested individuals can return to in August for information about year-round lifeguarding opportunities and training classes for the upcoming 2024 swim season.

The Aquatic Division hosts year-round lifeguard training classes for first-time lifeguards, returning lifeguards who need recertification, and lifeguards who are interested in becoming an instructor. The division also offers StarGuard Water Safety Educator classes, which train individuals in swim lessons and water safety.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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