Shortage of lifeguards delays opening of public pool until July 5

Despite record high temperatures that have hit the city in recent days, Chicagoans won’t be able to enjoy the cooling relief of public swimming pools until after the Fourth of July long weekend, according to a source familiar with the park district’s plans.

The pools were originally scheduled to open for the summer on June 24, but Chicago Park District officials had warned that a nationwide shortage of lifeguards could affect pool openings.

For city dwellers like Carla Lopez, the news is frustrating.

“It’s already affecting us because it’s about 100 degrees and we can’t get in there yet,” said Lopez, who often takes her 11-year-old daughter Amayato to public pools in the summer to cool off.

They are among many locals who won’t be able to make it for at least 10 more days.

Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons did not return multiple requests for comment, but a source confirmed to the Tribune that the opening of the pools would be delayed until July 5.

The shortage of lifeguards has been attributed to the reduction in in-person training required for certification and increased travel restrictions that have made it harder for international students to come and work as lifeguards in Chicago during the summer.

The current hourly wage for District Lifeguards is $15.88. But a $600 bonus would bring pay to $17.08 an hour, according to the Park District website.

Other incentives to fill vacancies include a $500 bonus for district employees who refer candidates to work as lifeguards during the summer, a waiver of the city residency requirement for qualified summer lifeguards and the possibility of obtaining employment for the rest of the year after the end of the season. .

Application requirements include attendance at an $80 American Red Cross lifeguard training course and full vaccination against COVID-19.

Aldus. Raymond Lopez, 15th, expressed his disappointment with what he called a lack of preparation that led to delayed openings.

“We all know Chicago gets hot in June. We know when the pools are supposed to be open. We know all this in advance. And yet, here we are,” said Lopez, who is running against Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “The swimming pools are empty. Our young people have nowhere to go.

With city pools not opening for some time, some Chicagoans may choose to rely on public pools in the suburbs to beat the heat.

“I don’t think we’ve been impacted too much by the Chicago pools yet. But I think if this heat wave continues, that could change,” said Scott Runkle, risk management and special facilities manager at Skokie Park District.

Their pool has reached about 80% capacity, he added.

“It’s hot and we’re busy, so that’s good,” he said.

But getting to the suburbs isn’t feasible for all residents, said Carla Lopez.

“Living in Chicago, we prefer the pools around us to be open because it’s harder to get to the suburbs,” she said.

She doesn’t have a car, which makes getting around difficult for her and her daughter, she says. Also, non-residents in the suburbs have to pay an additional fee or don’t get a resident discount to use the pools there.

So for now, Lopez and Amaya choose to hit the beach, a 5-minute walk from their apartment complex, to cool off.

The beaches have been open since Memorial Day weekend and Chicagoans can swim when lifeguards are on duty daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Gregory Pratt contributed to this report.

adperez@chicagotribune.com

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