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Could a lifeguard shortage delay the opening of Chicago city pools again?

Lifeguard shortage may delay Chicago pool openings
Lifeguard shortage may delay Chicago pool openings 01:33

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Unseasonable heat is now descending on Chicago, and you won't be able to get a break at city polls – because they're not opening for another three and a half weeks.

But last year, the city's pools didn't open until early July. Could a national lifeguard shortage mean that could happen again?

As CBS 2's Chris Tye reported Tuesday night, the plan is for the pools to open on schedule. The Chicago Park District says typically, the pools don't open until the Chicago Public Schools let out.

CPS lets out next week – and if everything goes as planned, pools would open two weeks after that. But again, a nationwide lifeguard shortage could extend that even further.

For the third year in a row, Americans have cooled off on the once hot job of lifeguarding.

"What I would consider a critical lifeguard shortage," said Wyatt Wereath of the American Lifeguard Association.

Last year in Chicago, that shortage meant city pools didn't open until after the 4th of July. This year, the Park District is targeting June 23 - but that could change if they don't get enough qualified candidates.

Lifeguards are needed to guard all city beaches and pools. So far, the Park District has received 1,731 applications.

But beyond applying, candidates need to pass Park District swim tests.

So as to staff the opening of all 22 Chicago beaches with lifeguards, all city pools - indoor and outdoor - remain closed.

In addition to a $16.19-per-hour wage, year-round guards are being offered a $600 signing bonus. All applicants can get free certification and training, free Divvy bike accounts, and free Chicago Fire soccer tickets.

The incentives are a full-court press to reverse a trend that began with COVID.

"Our job is up close and personal," said Wereath. "We have to do CPR. We have to do special types of holds and carries."

Wereath says the pandemic stopped training and drained the pipeline of trained guards.

"We couldn't train," Wereath said. "So with no training, the next year came in - there were no candidates, no recruits."

And with no recruits, there is no telling exactly when the when pools may open.

Workers at pools we spoke with Tuesday night they have not been told when to expect an opening. But the Park District says they will make a formal announcement ahead of the planned June 23 opening.  

To apply – visit the Chicago Park District website.  

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