CHICAGO — Park District officials said they’re on track to reopen all of the city’s public pools later this month thanks to a successful push to hire more lifeguards.
The indoor and outdoor pools will reopen June 23 as more than 300 lifeguards are being trained to staff the facilities, Chicago Park District beaches and pools manager Andrew Walsh said at a district board meeting Wednesday.
Incentives to attract new lifeguards appear to have worked, he said.
In May, the district announced it was temporarily closing all of its indoor pools in order to reassign some lifeguards to work at beaches.
As the district beefs up its staff, all Park District pools will reopen later this month, Walsh said.
Last summer, officials opened fewer than half of 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.
This time around, Park District officials got a head start on lifeguard hiring and in May said they were “optimistic” about the number of people who applied.
This year’s lifeguard application pool has over 1,800 people as of May 31, over double the 850 applicants the district received last year.
The district has expanded trainings, waived certification fees, adopted a $600 signing bonus and offered new incentives like free Chicago Fire soccer tickets and Divvy memberships to applicants. The seasonal job pays an average of $16.20 hourly, compared to $15.88 hourly last time around, according to the district .
Parents and swim coaches previously said the Park District’s disorganization, low pay and chronic underinvestment in neighborhood pools had fueled the lifeguard shortage, while officials have blamed the pandemic job market.
Community leaders have said opening pools is essential for fostering community and connecting youth to positive spaces during the summer, when crime typically rises.
The Park District operates 50 outdoor pools and 27 indoor pools, according to its website.
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