DENVER — Opening Day is approaching for many community pools across the Front Range, which means employees are busy right now applying the final touches.
“I feel like the whole city has high expectations for us,” said one staff member cleaning an Aurora pool who did not wish to be identified for this story.
With those high expectations comes a reality out of their hands — a lifeguard staffing shortage.
“Fully staffed we're at about 300 lifeguards for our 10 facilities and we're at about 200 right now, right around there,” said program and facility supervisor of the aquatics division for the City of Aurora, Alek Raymond.
Raymond says the shortage is making them think outside the box by using the employees they do have to open all six outdoor pools on Saturday, but on a limited schedule throughout the week.
“We work hard to make sure each and every one of our pools are open to the public this year but because of that, we’ve had to repurpose our staff and have them go in between pools to make sure we can get coverage out there,” said Raymond.
In Boulder, they’re meeting the lifeguard shortage with a different approach.
Instead of camp counselors only being responsible for interacting with their groups of children throughout the day, they’ll now also be trained lifeguards, freeing up other lifeguards for other locations.
“It frees up, you know, maybe one or two but that's huge in the schedule, because that means that maybe we can shift them over to a different area, maybe we can open a different area instead for those hours and that's huge for our community,” said communications program manager for the parks and recreation department for City of Boulder, Jonathan Thornton.
City of Denver officials say its solution is focused on equity by prioritizing pools in under-served communities over those in affluent areas.
“We made some decisions about the five indoor pools that would shutdown based off of equity and looking and the different neighborhood’s close proximity to other resources, whether it is in DPR with other recreation centers or outdoor pools in close proximity,” said director of recreation for Denver Parks and Recreation, Leslie Pickard.
Pickard also says DPR will be offering overtime hours for any lifeguards. Every city, doing its part to make keep as many pools open for communities to enjoy.