HOUSTON – One look at the matrix below is enough to understand that swimming in the city of Houston’s public pools is not as carefree as it was pre-pandemic.
In fact, taking a dip these days takes planning.
And the problem is a nationwide lifeguard shortage that may persist beyond 2022 as recruiting and training efforts during the thick of the pandemic could have lasting effects.
Severe Lifeguard Shortage
Right now, no pool in the city of Houston’s system is open more than three days a week. The root of the problem is a decimated staff. This year, the city has 50 lifeguards but in 2019, that number was 187.
“We just don’t have the staff. We have seven open on any given day,” said Leroy Maura, city of Houston Aquatics supervisor.
The interactive map below shows which pools are open this summer and which remain closed. The map also illustrates the city’s busiest pools, five of the six of them remain open three days a week.
The smaller Northline facility in North Central Houston did not open this summer, even though it was the fourth busiest pool in 2019.
How do they decide which pools to open?
KPRC2 Investigates wanted to know how the higher-ups in the city of Houston’s Parks & Recreation Department decided which pools to staff.
“It’s actually a difficult thing to do. You have to open up something that can accommodate a large crowd. The second thing we looked at is general areas and pre-Covid attendance,” Maura said.
The 14 open pools are evenly split across the city, as shown in the map above.
City lifeguard jobs available, pay starts at $13.66/hour
The city is trying desperately to bulk up its lifeguarding staff.
Applicants must pass physical tests of endurance.
To apply, click here.