CHICAGO - With summer quickly approaching, another pandemic shortage could put a hitch in your plans. Many places are in need of lifeguards.
The Dundee Township Park District needs to hire about 20 to 30 lifeguards to work at three pools, which all open in the next few weeks.
Mike Eschenbach has worked for the park district for 10 years and says he has never seen a lifeguard shortage like this. He says that usually by now, all lifeguards have been hired and trained.
"The biggest message we're really trying to get out is while it is a big responsibility, it's still a lot of fun," said Mike Eschenbach, the Aquatic and Athletic Manager for the Dundee Township Park District.
There are some incentives to being a lifeguard. A free fitness membership, a $50 bonus if you refer a friend, and the lifeguard training course is free.
So why the shortage? Eschenbach thinks it is a number of reasons, including a lack of time to devote to training and that some guards who couldn't work last year due to the pandemic moved on to other jobs.
"I do think there's a sense of anxiety, right? There's some people that are already a little high strung, they had to deal with so many new things throughout this COVID school year...that they're not really ready for that extra responsibility," Eschenbach said.
In addition, the Des Plaines Park District says it is in need of about 40 more lifeguards for its two outdoor pools that open on Memorial Day and its large water park that opens the week after.
Des Plaines parents shared their concerns.
"They've always had great lifeguards in the past and it would be terrible if we couldn't have enough," said Carol Potaczek, who was a lifeguard in the past.
"I hope they're able to figure it out," said Tim Tracy of Des Plaines.
To incentivize people to dive in, the Des Plaines Park District increased the pay to $12 an hour and will pay for half of the lifeguard training. Plus, it is giving out $50 Amazon gift cards.
"We will get those life guards, so we're working on it," said Des Plaines Park District Executive Director Don Miletic, "No matter what we do, we'll be open. We plan on being open and running all of our facilities."