The Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation will begin opening the city’s public pools on a rolling basis beginning Wednesday, with 16 pools expected to open by this weekend and another 31 over the next few weeks.
Pools will offer daily open swim and free swim lessons.
“Philadelphia public pools are a great way to cool down, have fun, and stay active this summer,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell in a statement.
“We’re pleased to be able to provide residents, and especially young people, with the chance to make some great summer memories as we continue to safely emerge from this pandemic,” she continued.
The city will open 47 outdoor pools this summer against the backdrop of a nationwide lifeguard shortage compounded by local hiring and recruitment challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pools were selected to open based on geography, past pool usage data and neighborhood need, officials said.
The 2021 pool schedule was developed based on equity and designed to maximize residents’ access to pools in every part of the city, with a focus on the largest or most heavily used pools in each neighborhood opening to accommodate the maximum number of visitors, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration said.
In addition, residents can stay cool and have fun this summer by visiting any of the city’s more than 90 spraygrounds, open seven days a week through Labor Day.
“Philadelphians love their neighborhood pools, and we are grateful to be able to open so many of these beloved summer institutions this summer,” Ott Lovell said.
“We have been relentless in our efforts to recruit as many lifeguards as possible to minimize the disruption to service in our first pool season since the pandemic shutdown of 2020,” she added. “We are seeing pools, recreation facilities, and beaches across the country reduce hours or close locations due to the lack of certified lifeguards to work this summer following more than a year out of the water due to the global pandemic.”
Parks and Recreation’s lifeguard recruitment process looked very different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The department typically begins recruitment in November, and actively targets recertification classes to college students returning home for the winter break. This year, as a result of the pandemic, recruitment began in mid-March.
Lifeguard class sizes were limited due to COVID-19 protocols, and all applicants were required to pre-register for a training or screening time.
Following a year or more out of the water due to the pandemic, candidates required extra training to regain swimming and rescue skills and build their stamina, officials said.
The city employed a variety of new tactics to maximize interest in lifeguarding, including raising the starting pay to $15.25 an hour.
In addition, Parks and Recreation covered the Red Cross certification fee for applicants between the ages of 16 and 24; hosted virtual and in-person job fairs; advertised on social media; conducted door-to-door canvassing; and worked with partner organizations.
The department was able to recruit, train, and certify hundreds of lifeguards and pool staff to open 47 free public pools this summer, approximately 70% of the city’s public pools.
Training will continue over the summer months to ensure Parks & Rec can return to a full complement of pool staff next year, officials said.
For a complete list of pools and additional information, go to www.phila.gov/parks-rec-finder.