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South Dakota's Lifeguard Shortage Is Causing Delayed Summer Openings?

ifeguard keeps a watchful eye on swimmers at the Terrace Park Pool in Sioux Falls


Traditionally, high school and college-age lifeguards?work?during the summer. But the COVID-19 pandemic left an entire summer for the unemployed lifeguards to find other jobs.? 


Darrell?Shoemaker?is the communications coordinator for Rapid City.?He?was?worried?about?finding?the 80 to 90 lifeguards?the city needs.?? 


“People who may have served as a lifeguard the previous summer, they make plans to come out and be a lifeguard again or they’ll tell their friends to come out and check about being a lifeguard for the summer and the problem was we lost last summer,”?Shoemaker said. 


Shoemaker?said pools?in Rapid City?opened on time.?The city?offered a two-dollar pay increase.?It?also?reimbursed?100?of the 185 dollars in lifeguard certification fees.?The application process was also streamlined to improve efficiency and accessibility.  


Sioux Falls pools?are?not as fortunate.? 


Don?Kearney is the director of parks and recreation. He said?openings?are?delayed for smaller pools.??McKennan Wading Pool and Frank Olson Pool are still closed. 


“A lot of the applicants that we’ve had are not willing to work the hours that we need them to,” Kearney said. 


Kearney said?Sioux Falls also?raised the wage?two?dollars.? 


In?Mitchell,?Jamie Henkel?is the aquatic and recreation coordinator.  


She?retained?lifeguards?by employing them?during the pandemic and throughout the school year.?Henkel did not have to increase wages. 


“They were happy working two days a week, you know, just so they could still do activities, so I was really flexible during the winter,”?Henkel said. 


In?Sioux Falls, the city?is conducting interviews and certification training courses?to fill a dozen lifeguard positions.??