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Lifeguard shortage creates issues for Central Arkansas community centers

With temperatures getting warmer, there's no doubt everyone will be cooling off at the pool this summer. But a shortage of lifeguards has been causing some issues.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The 'unofficial' start of summer began just days ago, on Memorial Day. 

But Steve Shields, director of the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation says that a shortage of lifeguards could affect swimmers that are wanting to head to the pool this summer.

"We've got five lifeguards right now," he said. They need about 12 to be fully staffed, but he said that having at least eight lifeguards will make him comfortable.

"We had a split schedule. I mean, North Heights is only open for three hours and Sherman Park is only open for three hours when normally they'd be open for six hours," Shields said.

He adds that this will be the norm until the city hires more lifeguards.

"We're in need. We are in the hiring mode," Shields said.

The Parks and Recreation center in Jacksonville, also faces a shortage in the rescuers. Diane Novotny, aquatics manager, said they have about 15 lifeguards currently on staff. Having 25 lifeguards would allow for them to be fully staffed and would also free up time for the lifeguards to be able to take breaks.

She also said she's added an additional training class, with hopes of getting more people trained for the water.

"We are doing it today, tomorrow and Thursday, so that we could get the kids that either forgot about it or needed some swim skills," Novotny said.

Thanks to the extra class, she said that they've since been able to hire three people.

"Minimum wage is $12.50 and the lifeguards are making $12.75," Novotny described.

For a young and hopeful teenager looking to get some extra cash this summer, perhaps that's a good deal

In North Little Rock, Shields said that their lifeguard's start off at $12 an hour and those with experience can start out at $12.50 an hour. They have also started taking the extra steps to help trainees get their certifications. 

"We as a city, are offering to pay for those classes for people interested in being a lifeguard," Shields added.

Novotny has no plans on closing the pools because of the shortages, and she remains optimistic that this issue won't last all summer long.

"We're always trying to find solutions so that we could get the kids to get the skills so that they can be lifeguards," Novotny said.

Anyone interested in being a lifeguard in NLR should contact Glenda Parker at (501) 791-8577 or you can also apply on their website.

For anyone interested in working as a lifeguard in Jacksonville, you can apply here.

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