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Lifeguard shortage forces City of Bryan to adjust pool hours, prioritizing safety first

Posted at 4:49 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 15:04:23-04

BRYAN, Texas — Memorial Day is right around the corner and City Staff in Bryan are making sure the safety of the activities they offer, match all the fun.

Staff with the City of Bryan say, despite a lifeguard shortage, safety is still their number one priority and they are adjusting pool hours to accommodate it.

Normally around Spring Break, applications for lifeguards come in, but not so much this time around.

"The applications weren't coming in like they normally would, so we really began a big push. When it got close to May, we realized we were really struggling to get the amount of staff we need," Ashley Bennett, Recreation Manager for the City of Bryan shared with KRHD 25 News.

Bennett says they are starting to see applications trickle in, but from what she's seeing, most aren't certified yet, leaving them unable to operate like they normally would.

This shortage, Bennett says, is not specific to just our community.

"Nationwide, there is a lifeguard shortage. We are having to take our hours down, so we can continue to operate our pool safely because we will not sacrifice safety without having enough staff," Bennett added.

Typically to be able to manage all three pools in Bryan, they have 75 lifeguards, but right now they are sitting at 21. Each and every member, vital for the safety of those enjoying the water.

"Each pool has a different set of lifeguards that are needed, depending on the size and how many people we have. We can go from a shift having 15 lifeguards on or as small as 7," Bennett added.

Bennett says the job is a very serious one, maintaining the safety and well-being of everyone in the facility. There are qualifications and requirements for the role, including certification.

"You have to be able to swim 300 yards continuously using the front crawl and breaststroke. You also need to be able to tread water for 2 minutes without using your hands and then you need to be able to retrieve a brick from at least 10ft depth swim it back over to the side place it and get out within a minute and 40 seconds," she added.

Bennett says if you can meet the prerequisites listed above, then you should have no problem completing the lifeguard class. Just take it from Kannon Torres, who has been protecting pools in Bryan for 4 years.

"To get your certification, you do want to have people to the best of their abilities. Even for me, coming from a swimming background, it is rather difficult, but well worth it in the long run," Torres, a Lifeguard for the City said.

Torres, a Bryan resident, says the role of a lifeguard is a big responsibility resting on one's shoulders, but it has allowed him to grow into a more responsible person.

".....it's a unique situation where you are in charge of a lot of people, but you also get to build on yourself here," Torres said. "It's a good chance to build on leadership skills here, as well as your own social skills. Lifeguarding and all the certification looks very good on a resume as well. I know I will definitely be putting it on mine," he shared.

Bennett says lifeguard certifications are good for two years, but at the Bryan Aquatic Center, they certify staff every year to make sure everyone is up to date and if they chose to hire you, they will certify you at no cost.

The age requirement minimum to work for the City of Bryan is 16 years old.

As of May 26, pay for a lifeguard now starts a $12 an hour, an increase from $9 originally.

Bennett says, the pay depends on certification and experience and if you've guarded before, they can look at increasing the pay.

Bennett also says, if you are interested you can apply online here.

You can also contact them at (979) 209-5222.

Bennett says people who are interested can also register online for a lifeguard class and you can also put your application in, even if you are not certified, to let them know you are interested in working for them.

Summer recreation swim kicks off on Monday, Memorial Day, at Sadie Thomas Pool, just one of the three pools in Bryan.

Staff says the shortage is not impacting swim lessons or other aquatic programs, only recreational swim.

According to the City of Bryan's website:

The pools will be opened for recreational swimming beginning Monday, May 31, according to the following schedule:

  • Sadie Thomas Pool: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.
  • Henderson Harbor: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 7 p.m.
  • Bryan Aquatic Center: Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m.

The City also says training and certification will be provided for free along with lifeguards receiving a t-shirt, hip pack, whistle, and guard suit.

"Currently, the City of Bryan has enough lifeguards to safely operate one facility each day, and the decision was made to rotate facilities so that all neighboring areas to the pools have an option to swim at least two days per week," as stated on the City of Bryan's website.

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