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Columbia and Jefferson City need more lifeguards ahead of pool season


As warmer summer days are approaching, Columbia and Jefferson City are experiencing lifeguard staffing shortages.

Tammy Miller, a spokesperson for Columbia Parks and Recreation, told ABC 17 News on Tuesday that the department is slightly short on lifeguards. She said about 15 more lifeguards are needed to be fully staffed. Miller said she is not sure if the shortage would affect the number of pools opening in the city.

"Ideally, we would like to have about 15 more lifeguards to accommodate our summer schedule this year," Syndey Philpot, Aquatics Director for Columbia Parks and Rec, said.

However, Philpot said this won't affect the city's pool opening dates. The Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center is set to open for the season on May 25, while the Douglass Family Aquatic Center and Lake of the Woods Pool will open May 28. They will be open seven days a week.

Philpot said the goal is to have 75 lifeguards staffed for the summer season.

"The last two years, we were still coming off the pandemic schedule, so this will actually be the first year that we're opening up Lake of the Woods since 2019," she said. "For the past two years, we've had about 50-to-55 lifeguards."

Anyone interested in applying for lifeguarding with Columbia Parks and Recreation will have their certification fee waived. Applicants must be at least 15 years old to apply and must have a currently nationally recognized lifeguard certification before their start date. Nationally recognized certifications include Starfish, Red Cross or Ellis and Associates.

Those interested in registering for a lifeguarding class through Columbia Parks and Rec must register at least 10 days before it starts, or a $10 late fee will be charged.

Prerequisites to become a lifeguard include de treading water for one minute using only your legs, being able to swim 50 yards with a tube, 50 yards without a tube, getting a 10-pound object from 12 feet and having internet access to take online courses required before the first day of class.

The next lifeguard training in Columbia will be 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Hickman Pool. Residents wishing to attend must be at least 15 years old or older and pay $175 to attend the class. The next lifeguard relicensing course will be 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at Hickman Pool, with the cost being $135.

Jefferson City

Jefferson City Parks and Recreation is also not fully staffed with lifeguards yet.

According to the meeting packet for Tuesday night's Jefferson City Parks and Recreation meeting, the city claims they have around 95% of its staff hired. The packet states it would still need about 10 more lifeguards.

"We'd like to have lifeguard numbers close to 75-to-80 lifeguards for both pools," Assistant Director of Recreation for Jefferson City Parks and Rec Phil Stiles said.

According to Stiles, the Ellis-Porter Riverside Pool and the Memorial Park Family Aquatic Center are set to open Memorial Day weekend.

Jefferson City Parks and Recreation held its first lifeguard classes on April 27-28 for lifeguards to learn life-saving skills at the LINC. Lifeguard classes require two days of in-classroom learning and one day in the water.

Both cities have ways to work around the shortage.

"Whenever there's a gap in the schedule, we're able to utilize our other aquatic staff, our managers are also lifeguard trained so they can go on the stand and cover," Philpot said.

"There might be some weeks where we might be short-staffed due to vacations or school commitments, but we also have a pretty long list of substitute cards that we can pull from," Stiles said.

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Gabrielle Teiner


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