Staffing shortages that have plagued area swimming pools over the last few summers — leading to reduced hours and closures — seem to be a thing of the past this year. This is good news for anyone ready to dive into summer as community pools open Saturday.
“We are great. We have about 20 lifeguards and 10 support staff and we’re ready to roll this summer,” said Tiffany Walker, recreation manager for Warren County Parks and Recreation Department, which operates the Claude A. Stokes Jr. Community Swimming Pool in Front Royal.
Walker said the department has been proactive in dealing with the lifeguard shortage it faced the previous two summers by offering a low-cost certification training program. In years past, applicants were required to have previously earned their lifeguard certification an investment of about $250, Walker said, noting how challenging that was given that most applicants are teens.
In December, Rachael Walker, recreation and aquatics supervisor for the county, became certified as a lifeguard trainer and, in February, the parks and recreation department began offering the course through a partnership with Randolph-Macon Academy, using the school’s indoor pool for the training sessions.
“We don’t charge. They just have to pay for their Red Cross certification,” Tiffany Walker said. “So that’s been more cost effective and has helped us tremendously.”
Rachael Walker has trained 35 certified lifeguards so far through the blended course. Participants complete an online portion prior to a three-day session of in-water training.
“We’re training some additional people so we actually have more than we can hire, but once they have their certification, they can work at 4-H or summer camps or things like that,” Tiffany Walker said, adding that the department will offer another certification class in July.
In other news at the Front Royal facility, there are a few changes to its inclement weather and closure policies, Tiffany Walker said.
“We’re not going to close due to rain. We’re going to stay open the entire day in case it clears up. We’ll bring the lifeguards in and do training so that if it clears up the public can come,” she said, noting that the pool will also stay open regardless of attendance numbers. In previous years, the facility closed when attendance dropped below 30, Tiffany Walker explained. The community pool will also be open until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings this summer.
Frederick County Parks and Recreation has also had better success with filling lifeguard positions this season, said Nathan Almarode, an operations manager for the department.
“We had some trouble with staffing last year, however, this year we received an influx of new applicants and had a great retention rate for returning guards. We are fully staffed and very excited to give lots of teens the opportunity to work within our parks,” Almarode said, adding that both Sherando and Clearbrook park pools will open on Saturday.
Almarode said that the county changed its admission pricing this summer, and will charge $3 for admission Monday through Thursday for everyone over the age of 3. The price goes up to $5 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, he said.
“The other major change is that we will not have concessions at either pool this summer. In place of that, we have added a few vending machines within each pool area for people to get snacks and refreshments,” Almarode said. “We chose to try something new and explore a different route.”
The pool at Warren County’s 4-H Educational and Conference Center will open on June 2. Megan Babcock, the center’s outdoor program specialist who oversees the pool operations, said that the center is completing the hiring process for lifeguards. Lifeguard training for summer camp staff and pool lifeguards has been ongoing this week, she said.
The 4-H Center was recently awarded a $5,000 grant to upgrade and improve its pool safety equipment, said Tatyana Yates, program director and lifeguard instructor at the center. Funding through the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative Power of Change Grant will be used to purchase new, sturdier guard stands that allow for better visibility and safety for lifeguards, as well as equipment to make existing backboards — used for life-threatening injuries — more efficient, first aid supplies, and innovative lifeguard tubes that allow for faster and adaptable rescues, Yates said.
“In addition to facility equipment, there is also a need for training equipment to train not only lifeguard and center staff, but to also open up both lifeguard and First Aid/CPR/AEd training to other center staff and the community,” Yates said. “With the necessary equipment updates, the pool will be safer and staff will be better prepared to handle emergencies with on-site training specific to the 4-H Center.”
Welcome to the discussion.
We will consider two submissions per writer per month. Letters: 250 or fewer words. Commentaries: Under 500 words. You may submit a photo with a Commentary if you like. Email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.