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Park District Closing Indoor Pools For At Least A Month As Some Lifeguards Head To Beaches

The indoor closures will run until at least June 23. While the Park District said its goal is to reopen all pools then, it's unclear if it will have the staff to do so.

People swim laps at Welles Park's indoor pool in June 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The Park District is temporarily closing all of its indoor pools this week as it reassigns some lifeguards to work at beaches.

The indoor closures will run until at least June 23, when officials hope to open indoor and outdoor pools for the summer, a parks spokesperson said.

The move comes as the city faces a lifeguard shortage that has closed or reduced access to Park District pools and beaches over the past several years.

Last year, officials opened fewer than half of its neighborhood pools because of a persistent lifeguard shortage, and openings were delayed from June 24 to July 5. Officials also closed parts of some beaches to shift lifeguards to pools.

Starting Wednesday, all Park District pools will be closed for the next month, Park District spokesperson Irene Tostado said.

“Our Spring Aquatics pool programs have ended for the season. Some pools remain open until Wednesday, May 24 for lap swim and open swim sessions, while others are now closed for Aquatics staff trainings or facility maintenance. Pools are scheduled to open for summer on June 23. The status of all our pools has been updated on our Swimming Pools page, which is accessible here,” Tostado wrote in an email.

Earlier this spring, the Park District announced a renewed hiring push to bring on more lifeguards to staff the city’s beaches and pools this summer.

That included expanding trainings, waiving a certification feebringing back a $600 signing bonus and offering new incentives, like free Chicago Fire soccer tickets and Divvy memberships.

Officials said this month they were “optimistic” about the the number of lifeguard applicants so far.

But while Chicago beaches are scheduled to reopen this weekend, officials have not yet confirmed which of the city’s more than 70 pools will be operational by June 23.

Chicago’s indoor pools were closed in summer 2021 after officials struggled to find lifeguards to oversee both indoor and outdoor pools as the city gradually reopened from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, only 37 of 77 indoor and outdoor public pools opened across the city due to staffing shortages.

“The Park District will begin to evaluate our summer pool season plans, and make a formal announcement prior to the scheduled June 23rd opening date,” Tostado wrote Monday.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A green flag flies over the lifeguard tower at Loyola Park Beach on Sept. 1, 2022.

Reached by phone Monday, several staffers at indoor pools across the city said they were being temporarily closed so lifeguards can staff the city’s beaches.

An employee at Ellis Park in Bronzeville said the park’s pool had been closed since last week, when lifeguards were moved to the beach.

A park staffer at Harrison Park in Pilsen said the pool summer’s schedule was still being finalized, but that lifeguards had been “sent” to do training at the beaches.

And an employee at Kosciuszko Park in Logan Square said he expects the pool to stay closed all summer because lifeguards are “shipping off” to the lakefront.

On Monday, Tostado confirmed some lifeguards are being re-assigned to the beaches or to assist with trainings.

“Lifeguards are being re-assigned to beaches and/or assisting with new lifeguard trainings and testing at Park District pools to prepare for pools to open for the summer season,” she wrote in an email.

Block Club Chicago’s Mack Liederman contributed.

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