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Columbia preparing to open outdoor pools as country sees lifeguard shortage


Pools across the country are facing a lifeguard shortage as the City of Columbia gets ready to open its outdoor aquatic centers for the summer.

Erika Coffman, recreation service manager for Columbia Parks and Recreation, says they need 70 to 75 lifeguards to help maintain all the pools in Columbia.

"Just about a little bit, you know fluctuate in between 30 to 35 range, hoping to get an additional 50 lifeguards at this point," Coffman said.

Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center will open May 28 for Memorial Day weekend and will be open Wednesday through Sunday after that from noon to 5 p.m. The Douglass Park Pool will open in early July.

The opening of the Lake of The Woods Pool remains uncertain due to the shortage.

To solve the lifeguard shortage problem, the city is going to continue to recruit.

Coffman says, "We need to continue to educate parents and young men and young women that its a great place to work."

The starting pay for a lifeguard in Columbia is minimum wage and they hire people starting at the age of 15.

It does cost to become a certified lifeguard but Coffman says to not let the cost stop you from learning a good skill-set.

"We also will help with those costs as well so we don't want money or any of those things to be a distraction for somebody to get involved," Coffman says.

Pools are among the businesses that are suffering from the pandemic job market. At least a third of public pools in the U.S are at risk of shutting down or changing hours to accommodate this coming summer's imminent staff shortages, according to the American Lifeguard Association.

Columbia had some difficulties hiring the optimal number of lifeguards before the pandemic, a problem exacerbated when COVID-19 altered the job market, making more jobs harder to fill. The opening of Albert-Oakland was delayed last year because of a lack of guards.

To become a lifeguard you can apply here.

Erika McGuire


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