Swim class canceled? Public pool closed? Here’s what’s going on

All around Los Angeles County, hours at public pools have started to change. Maybe your swim lessons have been canceled, or you’ve gone to the pool on a hot day only to be met with a locked gate and a “closed” sign.

This may be due to the lifeguard shortage affecting public pools throughout the nation.

Hugo Maldonado, regional operations manager for L.A. County Parks and Recreation, said the county operates 30 public pools, and the ones that you’ve seen closing are the seasonal pools. In a normal year, these pools would be open six days a week. This year, the county is staggering the openings. Half are open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other half are open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Six pools are open year-round, and those are unaffected by the shortage. Those pools include the four aquatic centers and the indoor pools at Roosevelt Park and Jesse Owens Park. A list of pool hours can be found on the county Parks and Rec website. For Los Angeles city pools, see the Citywide Aquatics website. Long Beach operates a few public pools. And other Southern California cities may operate their own.

The lifeguard shortage is the newest addition to the seemingly ever-expanding list of effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many pools were shut down by public health restrictions in 2020. By default, swim teams, water polo teams and swim lessons also ceased. The teenagers involved in these activities would have been prime candidates for summer lifeguard positions.

Maldonado said the closures resulted in fewer qualified candidates. Pools are looking for “motivated, hardworking teens with good customer service skills, and that qualify by completing a swim test,” he said. The test involves swimming 500 yards in 10 minutes or less.

Now that the summer season is here, pools need lifeguards more than ever. If you are 16 or older, you are eligible to apply.

The Lifeguard Ready Training Program was created in response to the shortage, and it aims to prepare possible lifeguards-to-be. Available to all, this program provides an opportunity to learn how to swim, access necessary swimming equipment and train at any local pool.

For those who just can’t wait for a neighborhood pool to be open and need a dose of fun in the sun stat, an app called Swimply lets you rent out a neighbor’s pool by the hour — for a hefty fee of course.

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