lifeguard shortage

With Scorching Heat Moving in, Are Chicago Pools, Beaches Open Yet?

As another heat wave is expected to take over Chicago this week, can residents head to citywide pools and beaches to cool down?

According to the Chicago Park District, the opening of the city's 49 outdoor pools has been rescheduled from June 24 to July 5.

"While we have a sufficient number of lifeguards protecting our beaches, which opened May 27th, several factors, including the national lifeguard shortage, impact the District's ability to secure ample staffing for our pools," the Chicago Park District told NBC 5.

"Opening pools on July 5th will allow the District additional time to recruit and implement a strategy that provides pool resources to as many communities as possible this summer," the park district said.

Last week, district officials said they would continue to evaluate staffing numbers in order to determine a plan for reopening.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's currently a 91% vacancy rate among seasonal lifeguards in Chicago. Block Club Chicago reported that in 2021, the city's 29 indoor park district pools were also closed due to the lifeguard shortage.

In an effort to attract more seasonal and permanent lifeguards, the Park District says its boosting a retention and lifeguard bonus, and relaxing city residency requirements for applicants.

Here's a breakdown:

  • $600 recruitment and retention bonus for all new hires returning seasonal and year-round lifeguards
  • $500 referral bonus for existing District employees who refer qualified candidates to work as lifeguards
  • Opportunity for seasonal lifeguards to secure year-round employment status after the summer ends
  • Temporarily waiving city residency requirement for seasonal lifeguards to attract qualified applicants from neighboring suburbs

According the Park District, the current hourly wage for Chicago lifeguards is $15.88 an hour. The retention bonus would raise the average wage to an equivalent of $17.08 an hour.

As part of the application process, candidates must be fully vaccinated and take an American Red Cross Lifeguard training course, which runs $80.

Those 16 years of age and older are eligible to apply to be a lifeguard. Here's how to apply.

While Chicago's 22 beaches opened for the season Memorial Day weekend, swimming may be prohibited depending on lifeguards working and water conditions.

Chicago Beaches: How to Check Lake Michigan Water Temperature, Swimming Conditions

According to the park district website, swimming is only allowed at public beaches while lifeguards are on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Chicago beaches abide by a flag warning system, as well, to determine whether its safe to swim at each beach:

  • Green Flag: A green flag means that there are no swimming restrictions, swimming is permitted.
  • Yellow Flag: A yellow flag means that a swim advisory is in place:  swimming is allowed but caution is advised.  
  • Red Flag: A red flag means that a swim ban is in place, swimming is not allowed, as conditions do not meet safe swimming standards.

You can check the daily status of each beach here, or by calling (312) 74-BEACH. Signs with conditions are also posted at each beach.

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