Shortage of lifeguards keeps some St. Louis pools closed, others with limited

“I know COVID changed some mindsets because really everything was shut down for 13, 14 months,” Hayes said, adding that he couldn’t be sure if health concerns relating to COVID-19 were discouraging applicants.

Midwestern Pool Management, which handles lifeguard hiring for several area towns including St. Ann, Clayton and Ferguson, said it’s managed to hire enough lifeguards for the summer, but recruiting was especially tricky this year.

“Due to closures last year, COVID restrictions, school closures, etc. hiring and recruiting lifeguards has been more challenging than in years past,” Vice President Crissy Withrow said in emails. “We have had to get creative in our efforts … we’ve had to rely a lot more on social media, which has proven to work for us, as well as an employee referral incentive program.”

St. Vincent Aquatic Center, North County Aquatic Center and Kennedy Recreation Complex in St. Louis County also struggled to find lifeguards. The Pavilion at Lemay has been the exception, Pavilion Recreation Supervisor Carolyn Fuchs said.

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“Luckily I was able to recruit a lot from the school districts in the area, and the lifeguards I already have are a great recruitment tool,” she said. “They love to work with their friends, so I push that pretty hard and we’re set for this summer.”

Kennedy Recreation Supervisor Paul Kettenbach believes St. Louis County benefitted from health officials allowing county pools to open last summer. That means the county had a roster of lifeguards from last year to pull from. St. Louis city did not open pools last summer.

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