Natasha Lovato / NewsBreak Denver
(Douglas County, Colo.) Like other public pools in the Denver metro, managers at Douglas County swimming pools struggle to hire qualified lifeguards.
The national lifeguard shortage led Colorado pools to delay opening and reduce hours.
But the state is trying to help. On June 21, Gov. Jared Polis announced a state grant to help train new lifeguards. Applications for grants are due before 12 a.m. Wednesday.
Grant money helps attract, retain lifeguards
Pools must use the grant money to provide incentives to attract and retain public pool employees, so they stay through the summer. The money will help pools ensure adequate staffing levels to remain open at maximum capacity.
Bryan Gentilini, recreation manager for Parker Colorado Parks and Recreation, said his department started the summer with 35 fewer lifeguards than needed.
"We are on the brink of needing to minimize service operations should our current employees take sick, or vacation time and it could cause issues," Gentilini said.
But he thinks Parker is more fortunate than other parts of Colorado.
"I think for us, this is the first year we've felt any sort of employment struggle. While the national lifeguard shortage has been going on for a couple of years, at this point, we have a pretty good retention rate, so we have been fortunate in that way," he said.
Castle Rock needs 45 more lifeguards to operate efficiently during the rest of the summer.
Pools need older lifeguards
Gentilini said the age of typical lifeguards is part of the problem. Most lifeguards are 16- to 18-year-olds or college students and can only work during summer break.
"It's not too late to apply by any means, and most agencies have year-round operations, so we always need lifeguards with an emphasis on daytime which is ideal for adults who are looking for a second career or are retired," he said.
To learn more about Colorado's pool staffing initiative, click here.