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'We're making it work,' Killeen aquatics park open with limited hours due to lifeguard shortage

Posted at 5:37 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-09 18:37:44-04

If you are looking to beat the heat at your local pool or water park this summer, make sure they're open. Many public pools are forced to reduce operation hours due to a shortage of lifeguards.

With the nationwide lifeguard shortage at hand, staff at the Killeen Aquatic Center have been working to keep their doors open even if it’s only just a few days a week.

It's a kid's worst nightmare. Their favorite pool closed for the summer.

"I thought it was going to close I was scared. This is like the best waterpark," said one pool goer.

Luckily that's not the case, but it almost was.

Claryce Free, Aquatics Manager for the City of Killeen says, "Typically, we have everybody we need by the beginning of May and we’re ready to roll."

Free said she is a numbers girl and earlier in the summer the odds weren't looking too good.

"I typically hire about 55 lifeguards but this season we're only at about 25 percent of that," said Free.

A lack of interest and the pandemic both playing a role in the national lifeguard shortage, still Free and her team are making it work.

Tarrah Schwartzengraver who is a pool manager at the park said, "You know sometimes it is a little short, but our lifeguards are stepping up and making the effort you know. It’s a fun environment and I really enjoy coming back here."

Leading a team of dedicated young people like Schwartzengraver fills Free with an immense sense of pride, having worked at the park as a teenager herself.

"I’m overjoyed to be here to be able to lead the staff with the same direction that I went through," said Free. "To see the excitement on their face it just creates so much passion and fire for me. Just to be able to open the park this summer was a big project for us and a big goal I’m just really happy to be here."

Free said she's been able to work around the shortage and keep the park open a few days out of the week, while making sure visitors and staff remain safe. Free is still looking to hire more lifeguards and schedules interviews almost every day to fill the void.

Rain or shine the park will be open Friday through Sunday with limited hours. For the full list of hours, click here.