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While many Tri-State pools struggle to hire lifeguards, Covington finds successful ways to address staffing

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Posted at 7:43 PM, May 24, 2023

COVINGTON, Ky. — With sunshine and temperatures in the 80s across the Tri-State, it’s starting to feel like pool season.

Some local pools will start opening as soon as this weekend, but others won't be opening this season due to a lack of lifeguards.

The lifeguard shortage continues to be a challenge nationwide, and the impacts are being felt locally.

While many pools are having issues, Covington has found ways to successfully address the staffing concerns. This time last year, they only had about 10% of the lifeguards they needed for the season. This year, they're in a much different place.

"This year, we're actually much higher. We're actually up around that 75% mark and we've got a ton of lifeguards still in the pipeline," said Benjamin Oldiges, Covington Parks and Recreation division manager. "So, I mean, we should be good to go at all three of our locations."

Oldiges is referring to the pools in Goebel and Randolph parks, as well as the Latonia Water Park. He said they went into Covington schools and spoke directly to high schoolers about the summer job opportunities at Covington pools. They also bumped the lifeguard pay.

"So last year, we were in that $12-13 mark, we bumped up the starting salary for lifeguards to be about $14-15 an hour," he said.

Covington's hiring efforts are working, but across the river, others are still in need of pool staff, despite similar efforts.

"I know that some local organizations are having some challenges," Oldiges said.

Chris Pike, marketing and communications director with Cincinnati Recreation Commission (CRC), said right now they will only be able to open 13 of their 23 pools due to staffing shortages.

"Depending on how the training classes continue to develop, the recruitment continues to develop, we'll be making the determination if we're able to open any additional polls this summer," Pike said.

Last summer, only 10 of CRC’s pools were open, so it is an improvement, but not where they want to be.

"That’s not what we want for summer. And the pools are a lifeblood for the communities," Pike said.

The news is heartbreaking for communities that have not had their pools open for several years now.

"I would ask them to you know bear with us as we try to continue this," Pike said.

CRC also increased their starting pay for lifeguards to $16 an hour. Those who may be interested in lifeguarding this summer can learn more about the qualifications and training here.

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