Eager swimmers arrive to Woodlawn Lake Pool.
The City of San Antonio needs to hire more than 200 additional lifeguards to fully open municipal pools this summer. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

An industry-wide shortage of lifeguards may affect pool season in San Antonio this summer. To prevent that, the city is hoping to lure potential applicants with cash incentives. 

Saturday, the city announced the opening of eight pools for the summer pre-season, twice as many as it has in previous pre-seasons. During the regular season, which runs from mid-June through August, the city plans to open 23 outdoor pools.

That is, if it can hire enough lifeguards to monitor each pool. 

The city currently has about 57 lifeguards and another 16 who have completed processing. To open all city pools by the regular season, 180 lifeguards are needed, said Connie Swann, marketing manager for the San Antonio Parks and Recreation department.

If the city can’t hire enough, the department “is not leaving anything off the table,” said Shanea Allen, parks and recreation aquatics manager — including cutting pool hours or leaving some pools closed.

The city is pinning its hiring hopes on a bonus to recruit enough lifeguards to fully staff the regular pool season. 

Each new or returning lifeguard applicant who is hired can receive up to $1,000, which would be disbursed in three installments in paychecks, said Allen.

If attendance and training requirements are met, the first payment of $200 would be paid out after the first shift, then $400 after working Fourth of July week, with the final $400 paid out at the end of the summer, she said.

“We are definitely experiencing a challenge getting lifeguards in and getting them to fill our staff, definitely,” said Allen. 

It is unclear when the department will decide whether or if pool hours will be cut or if only select pools will open.

“We’re still putting together our plan,” said Swann. “We’ll release that pretty soon for the regular pool season.”

Those interested in the city’s temporary, full-time and part-time lifeguard positions must meet multiple requirements before they can be hired at $12.45 an hour, said Allen. 

That wage, even with the signing bonus, may not be enough to attract many traditional applicants, as the hospitality industry has been raising wages in an attempt to fill positions.

Lifeguards must also be certified through the American Red Cross, where required online training can cost as much as $240. Parks and Recreation also hosts Red Cross certification classes for applicants who pass a series of prerequisite swimming and diving tests.

Certifications classes with parks and recreation are usually held in December and January, but because of the shortage, Allen said those classes are extended into June to get as many more lifeguards as possible. 

She said while many people think of the typical lifeguard as a teenager — and the city hires lifeguards starting at age 16 — she encouraged less traditional applicants to consider applying.

“We’re looking for active seniors… active retirees, parents or adults that may have summers off that are interested in getting extra cash during the summer,” said Allen.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the number of lifeguards the city needs to hire and the type of certification class the city offers. Additionally, a comment from one city employee was incorrectly attributed to another.

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.