The City of Syracuse is the latest municipality to close some of its pools due to the ongoing shortage of lifeguards.
According to CNY Central, Syracuse will open just five of its eight pools to begin the summer season, and it's doing everything it can to keep those locations in operation.
City planners say they were prepared for an unusual season, knowing that they would be opening pools with a lifeguard shortage unlike anything they'd seen. On a good year, Syracuse usually has about 150 lifeguards, including some backups. This year, the city is short 50 lifeguards with no backups.
“If we can hire more lifeguards, we will open up another pool,” Julie LaFave, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the City of Syracuse, “and we are not making that decision until we get to that point."
The city knew the shortage would be a problem due to how few lifeguard lessons could be held during he pandemic. Swimming lessons have also been cancelled this summer.
“I can remember a story of when a kid swam on his own for the first time, and he looked as his mom and said, ‘Hey, mom, I did it!’ It’s something I still remember to this day,” said Shea Lee, a lifeguard in the city. “Swim lessons are probably the best thing at the city pools.”
The city has now increased pay for lifeguards to $15 an hour in hopes of attracting more staff.
“You get to play with kids, you get to tan,” says Lee, “and it’s pretty good money.”