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Lifeguard shortage affects Billings Parks and Rec pools

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Posted at 5:37 PM, Jun 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-05 19:47:54-04

BILLINGS — Billings Parks and Recreation pools are set to open this week, but this year you might not see as many lifeguards as you would in the past. The applicant pool of lifeguards has dwindled over the years.

Rose Park Pool was busy Sunday as lifeguards trained for the upcoming summer season.

“I’m here for the experience,” said Maria Bentz, a lifeguard at Billings Parks..

This is the third year Bentz has signed up to be a lifeguard for the summer. Her return was much needed.

“Every year it seems as though we keep getting shorter and shorter on our lifeguard staff,” said Dawn Marie Kaufman, Billings Parks and Recreation Aquatics Coordinator.

Kaufman said safety is the name of the game when it comes to pools, which is why having an ample number of lifeguards is so important.

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“With not having enough guards, that does not mean that our facilities aren’t going to be safe. What it means is that our facilities are going to have to cut hours,” Kaufman said.

Lifeguards go through rotations so they’re not in the sun during their entire shift. If fewer lifeguards are available, that means fewer people cycle through rotations.

“Having kids and managers coming back year after year is really tough,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman said 50 people applied to be a lifeguard this year but only 38 have followed through with training courses.

“We’re hoping, like I said, for 50, so we’re still in need of some,” said Kaufman.

Luckily some folks, like Sara Murphy, do come back. It’s her fifth year as a lifeguard.

“It’s my only job throughout the summer and it helps me pay for school,” said Murphy.

She’s not too worried about the shortage.

“Well, it means I get more hours which is really nice, I love that,” Murphy said.

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Rose Park Pool is one of four Billings Parks and Recreation pools that require lifeguards. There’s South Park Pool, and Pioneer and Hawthorne Parks have wading pools.

“The state requires us to have at least two guards in any area that has standing water,” said Kaufman.

Kaufman said she’s had to make adjustments to fill all the gaps.

“We’ve had to implement a number of additional classes and that’s kind of tough,” Kaufman said.

She said even finding instructors to teach the classes can be difficult.

“It’s tough because people don’t stick in aquatics. It’s a three-month position and it’s hard to come back,” said Kaufman.

If you’re looking for a summer job, lifeguard positions are available through Billings Parks and Recreation. You can check that out at Lifeguard Certification Class - Billings Parks and Recreation.

“I think more people should do it cause it’s fun. And like the coworkers are awesome,” said Bentz.