Shawnee County pools open fully staffed for the summer

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee County pools and aquatic centers are open, fully staffed, and ready for a summer of fun.

Last year, pools around the country faced a lifeguard shortage last year, causing closures, altered hours of operations, and staffing issues.

Mike McLaughlin, public information officer for Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Department, told 13 News that lifestyle changes for those in the typical age range for lifeguards are part of the reason why they had trouble finding enough staff.

“Young people today are so much busier than they used to be,” says Hurla. “I grew up playing 16 baseball games a season now they play 50-60. A lot of the young people are going to summer school to pick up AP classes if they’re still in high school or classes if they’re in college to try and finish college sooner. So we’re just losing them to how busy the world is today.”

As the manager for both the Oakland and Garfield community pools, Ty Hurla attributes staffing issues to what he perceives as a lack of interest in working amongst younger populations.

‘It was just a little challenging obviously having to adjusting when people can work, and staffing wise having to do a little differently like chemicals and all that,” says Hurla, optimistically. “But it wasn’t too bad. We got trained pretty good by our supervisor and all them. They did well helping us out between getting people that we need to work and all that.”

The situation this season has improved. Since last year Shawnee County has made strategic efforts to attract, hire, and retain staff at the pools.

“We got approved for a competitive pay increase, the pay wage for all lifeguards and managers,” Hurla told 13 News. “We’ve increased to where we can hire 15 year olds now which helps out even though they can only work for 40 hours.”

“We did go out to a lot of job fairs this year. Shawnee County held its own job fair, our aquatic supervisor will go out to places you find lifeguards: local swim clubs Hummer Sports Park natatorium. And a lot of times the lifeguards recruit their own peers” says McLaughlin.

Last year, Shawnee County employed roughly 148 lifeguards, this year it has about 170 to staff its seven community pools and aquatic centers.

Most SNCO pools are open from 12-7 all week. You can check specific pool hours on the parks and rec website.