Des Moines Pools in Danger Without More Lifeguards

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Warmer temperatures are often a sign that swimming pool season is right around the corner, but Des Moines’ five public pools are facing a roadblock because there aren’t enough lifeguards to staff them.

“This is really a safety issue. We wouldn’t be able to fully staff our five pools. What we’d have to do is stagger which pools are open and maybe not open a pool like Ashworth or Teachout,” said Jen Fletcher, marketing supervisor for the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department.

The Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department needs 132 lifeguards to staff all five pools and aquatic centers. Right now they only have 64 lifeguards. They are desperately looking to hire lifeguards who are at least 15 years old. Having proper staffing also allows for swimming lessons. Last year nearly 1,000 residents learned to swim. Due to the pandemic, only three pools were open last summer, but attendance was still over 20,000. With all five pools open, attendance has regularly hit 100,000.

Wages for lifeguards are the highest they have ever been, starting out at nearly $10 per hour. Applicants do not have to reside in Des Moines to apply, and the Parks and Recreation Department says many won’t even have to pay their own way for lifeguard certification. “We will offer free lifeguard certification for anybody with an offer of employment. If you think you can’t afford to become a lifeguard, we will help you do it for free,” said Fletcher.

The department hopes to open the Teachout Aquatic Center Memorial Day weekend, with the remaining four scheduled to open on June 5. To apply for a job, visit www.dmparks.org

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