AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it only has 25% of the lifeguards needed to operate summer pools at full capacity.
“We will only operate pools safely,” said Austin Aquatic Manager Jodi Jay. “We still need 375 just to open tier two pools,” she added, referring to the facilities that only operate during the summer and open June 6. In order to operate the rest of the summer pools that open at later dates, the city needs 565 lifeguards.
She said it’s too early to determine which pools will be impacted. If the City doesn’t get the staff numbers it needs, some pools may have shorter hours or not open at all. Another option would be only opening certain parts of the pools, so fewer lifeguards would be needed at each one.
“A decision about a week before June 6 will have to be made once we look at our training numbers and our applicants,” she said. “And then we might have to back off of that schedule.”
This is already being implemented at the year-round pools. Barton Springs, for example, is open fewer days a week than it normally is.
Most of the City’s lifeguards are high school and college students, according to Jay.
A JobsEq report KXAN received from Workforce Solutions Capital Area shows fewer teens are taking summer and minimum wage jobs.
Those who are are opting for food service jobs before lifeguard gigs. According to the report, about 40% of employees in both food preparation and restaurant hosting in Austin are 16 to 19 years old, compared to just about 19% of amusement and recreation attendants.
“There’s very high competition,” said Austin YMCA Aquatics Director Juan Ybarra.
The Y also needs about 100 more lifeguards to be fully operational, and they pull from the same lifeguard applicant pool the City does.
The problem persists outside of Austin as well. A spokesperson for the City of Round Rock said they’re still looking to hire lifeguards, pool attendants, cashiers and swim instructors.
Austin needs more summer camp employees as well, but Jay said camps will be fully operational regardless — they just may have to scale back on weekend events to staff weekday camps.