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Open for the season: St. Louis pools report lifeguard shortage as swim class enrollment surges

“Whether you’re going on vacation or not, it’s just important to start those lessons at the earliest age possible."

ST. LOUIS — The City of St. Louis opened two out of its three most popular public pools this weekend.

The outdoor pools at Marquette Recreation Center and Fairground Park were available for families to start using over Memorial Day weekend. Both pools are open from noon-6 p.m. on Monday.

The Chambers Pool, another popular city pool, is closed. No open date has been posted.

The city posted on its website that it's having trouble hiring lifeguards. The city is paying $15 an hour and training on-site.

Lifeguards are even more essential over the next few weeks as the summer months bring a higher risk for accidental drowning.

Since parents are looking to make sure their kids can stay afloat, instructors at Barron Swim School say the school is in its busiest season.

We spoke with Lauren Harr, the assistant aquatics director at Barron Swim School in St. Louis.

“Whether you’re going on vacation or not, it’s just important to start those lessons at the earliest age possible. That way you’re starting those safety skills super early and you're way ahead of the game. Instead of waiting until you leave for vacation or by Memorial Day when we start going to the lake… Staying in year-round is most important,” she said.

The swim school is working overtime to prevent tragedy.

“We are super busy, but we always try to keep it moving as much as possible, getting people in as quickly as we can,” Harr said.

There are a lot of families getting lessons at Barron Swim School. The early summer months are the most popular time for swim lesson enrollment.

“A lot of times, some people think, ‘Oh, this is going to be a really quick process.’ But, it really just depends on the child and how much they’re comfortable already in the pool,“ she said. “Just give them time. Be really patient with them. Some kids take off really fast, some may take a month or two and some even a little bit longer than that.”

Entering the season of summer camps, vacations and float trips, kids are much more likely to be spending time around water. The little ones who aren’t strong swimmers could potentially wade into a deadly situation.

Parents need to make sure they pay extra attention to their kids if spending time near water for the holiday.

“They just need to have a coast guard approved life jacket on. They need to be with that parent 24/7. Parent’s eyes should not be off of them at any time,” Harr said. “I know people can get silly and your eyes can go away for a second. It only takes that amount of time for a child to fall in.”

Barron Swim works with babies, teaching lifesaving moves.

“We’re teaching them if they’d ever fall into a body of water to roll on their back,” Harr said. “They’re so little they couldn’t swim back to the water or climb out so we’re teaching them to roll over to get a breath.”

Part of the training is prepping kids a little older to keep calm if they fall in the water.

“A few times a year we do a safety week where we’re teaching them to jump into the water. They come in fully clothed. They have shoes on and also without goggles. That way, if they were to ever fall in, no matter what age they are, they kind of get the feel of what that feels like. That way, they’re not panicking if it really happens… to be able to turn around and go back right to where they fell in and be able to get back out,” she said.

What about parents who want to teach their kids to swim themselves?

You can try and get your kid get comfortable putting their face underwater or even blowing bubbles to help supplement what they learn in swim school.

But the biggest thing is to actually get in the pool with them and take it slow! Don't ever just toss them in and think instinct will take over. That could quickly become dangerous.

Your safest bet is getting professional lessons.


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