CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- The City of Charleston will not be able to give summer swim lessons to children because of a staffing shortage of lifeguards and certified swim instructors.
“Nationwide, not just here in Charleston, there is a huge shortage of certified lifeguards and certified water safety instructors,” said Laurie Yarborough the Recreation Director for the City of Charleston. “We’ve been hiring since January doing open recruitments, going to colleges and going to high schools.
There are enough lifeguards to keep the city’s four public pools open, but lifeguards can only supervise swimmers because there is another certification process to become an instructor.
With the pools’ staff already thin, Yarborough can’t have the lifeguards she has to take instructor certification classes.
“I do not have the staffing to do both things this year,” said Yarborough. “The last thing we want to do is not teach swim lessons. But, in order to be open for continuous use this summer that’s the only way we’re going to be able to staff them.”
Yarborough and her staff also cannot move lifeguards around due to a Department of Health and Environmental Control rule that states a 50-meter pool must have 6 guards when more than 51 swimmers are present.
“You’ve got a pool that you’re going to have a certified number of lifeguards watching you, taking care of you and making sure that your experience is safe,” said Yarborough. “That’s what I really need to do, give families somewhere that’s affordable, economical and safe. That’s what the city will be doing this summer.”
The city is still actively hiring for lifeguards and swim instructor positions. They are offering a signing bonus and free certification classes. If more people are hired lessons could return, but Yarborough is not sure that will happen.
“If we’re not able to staff up then we will start back with lessons in the fall when we have fewer pools open,” said Yarborough.