Clark County-managed pools sees increase in lifeguards

Aiden Ruggiutz, 18, a lifeguard, keeps an eye on swimmers at Pavilion Center Pool on Friday, Ju ...

Staffing levels at Las Vegas-area pools have improved thanks to recent hiring incentives, as public pools throughout Clark County combat a shortage of lifeguards.

But parks and recreation officials said this week that even with the new hires, some public pools will run on rotating schedules or limited hours this summer swim season.

Lifeguard shortages have been impacting pools across the country, including Southern Nevada. Employers have upped pay rates, offered retention incentives based on hours worked in the season and, in some cases, paid for applicants’ lifeguard certifications.

For some agencies, it has worked. For others, staffing is still significantly lower than previous years.

“It is very sad,” said Rachel Harmon, aquatic specialist for the city of Las Vegas. “If you look at our (staff) phone list, it’s smaller than it was in the past.”

The city hired about six people out of the approximately 50 needed, Harmon said. The staff shortages have resulted in shortened hours at the city’s six pools and cuts to additional services such as private rentals and water sport activities.

“(Swimmers) are very upset, and we hear it daily,” Harmon said. “We recommend calling 24 hours in advance to see what the hours are for the next day, what parts of the pool will be open.”

Meanwhile, the staffing shortage is slightly better at Clark County-managed pools, Hollywood Aquatics Center Supervisor Katie Boehme said.

“We’re just getting through two training classes after this weekend. It gave us a good number of staff,” Boehme said. “Now not all of our lifeguards are maxed out (at 40 hours) every week. We’re in a comfortable position, but we’re still not pre-COVID.”

Additional employees in the next few weeks — when recently hired lifeguards finish their training — will allow managers to extend the hours of operation at some pools or add swim lessons, she said. Boehme recommends calling in advance to confirm a pool’s hours.

“We’re going in to the offseason into a much better position than last year,” she said. “Every offseason we go into with more staff, the better the next season will be.”

Corey Clark, recreation manager for the city of Henderson, said increased wages and retention bonuses helped buoy lagging staff in the early weeks of summer. He said about 20 people were trained this week, allowing the city to keep about five of its pools open every day.

“I’m very happy with what’s going through the summer,” he said. “Do we wish every pool was open every single day? Sure, but I’m proud of the operating plans we have and options for the community. People are having a lot of fun at our pools, are thankful for the work and effort that goes into what we do, and our staff is doing great.”

Recreation officials said they’re still hiring, but recognized that the number of applications may dwindle by early August, when school starts.

Clark and Boehme said anyone hired and trained in the next few weeks would still be able to work in the offseason, if they wanted.

“Hopefully, next year they’ll all apply in January so we can roll into summer with a few more lifeguards,” Clark said laughing.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.