Fifty of Philadelphia’s 65 public swimming pools are set to open over the next several weeks amid a national lifeguard shortage, parks and recreation commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said Friday.
That’s a few more pools than opened last summer, when hiring was also a struggle. However, 15 of 22 pools that were closed last year will remain shuttered — 12 due to staffing and three due to renovations and repairs, said spokesperson Maita Soukup. Most of those pools are in North Philadelphia.
The first pools are set to open next week, with 26 operating by July 4, the commissioner said, and the rest up and running by mid-July.
“We know there is a national lifeguard shortage that we feel acutely here in Philadelphia,” Ott Lovell said, “and we have a massive number of pools here in Philadelphia,” adding that the city has more pools per capita than any other city.
For some Philadelphians, this marks the third summer their neighborhood pool will be closed, as no public pools opened in the city in 2020 due to COVID-19.
That has left children in some neighborhoods without a safe, walkable place to go amid a surge in gun violence. It also prevents little ones from learning how to swim, which could put them in danger, especially if they go to another body of water to cool off during the heat of summer.
The lifeguard shortage had been building for decades, Bernard J. Fisher II, director of health and safety for the American Lifeguard Association, told The Inquirer last week. But it was exacerbated by the pandemic, which halted lifeguard training and recertification, and now a competitive job market has many potential workers finding better-paying positions elsewhere.
As summer gets underway, the issue has halted or delayed the openings of pools, lakefronts, and beaches across the state and the country. This week, Chicago announced it would delay opening its pools until July 5 due to the shortage, and some South Jersey beaches may be closed if more guards aren’t hired.
This year in Philadelphia, pools or spraygrounds will be open in every zip code, Ott Lovell said. Seventy percent of open pools are located in low-income communities, she added, and the department tried not to close a pool unless there was another nearby. All open pools will offer free swim lessons.
The city has hired 294 lifeguards, Soukup said. But it would need dozens more to staff all pools, Ott Lovell said.
The department is no longer hiring lifeguards that need training, but the commissioner said they would welcome any already-certified guards who want to work.
“It would help us a great deal,” she said. “We would love to have them.”
The pool-opening schedule is below, with complete details on the city’s website.
Tuesday, June 21
Wednesday, June 22
Thursday, June 23
Friday, June 24
Monday, June 27
Tuesday, June 28
Wednesday, June 29
Thursday, June 30
Friday, July 1
Saturday, July 2
Week of July 4
Hillside Recreation Center
Christy Recreation Center
J Finnegan Playground
Northern Liberties Recreation Center
CB Moore Recreation Center
McVeigh Recreation Center
Cobbs Creek Recreation Center
39th & Olive Playground
Lonnie Young Recreation Center
Feltonville Recreation Center
Shepard Recreation Center
Francisville Recreation Center
Scanlon Recreation Center
Week of July 11
Hunting Park Recreation Center
Tustin Recreation Center
FJ Meyers Recreation Center
These pools will be closed for a second summer:
Amos pool in North Philadelphia
Baker playground pool in Overbrook
Behlfield Recreation Center pool in East Germantown
Chew playground pool in Point Breeze
Cohocksink Recreation Center pool in Port Richmond
Dendy Recreation Center pool in North Philadelphia
East Poplar Playground pool in North Philadelphia
Gathers Recreation Center pool in North Philadelphia
Lee Recreation Center pool in West Powelton
Morris Estate pool in Ogontz
Narcissa S. Cruz Recreation Center pool in Ludlow
Ridgway Park pool in Hawthorne
Shuler pool in North Philadelphia
12th and Cambria pool in North Philadelphia