Lifeguards back in school; pool closed

Lisa Depies
A LIFEGUARD watches over the Geneseo Outdoor Pool earlier this summer. The pool's lifeguards have returned to school, which means the district doesn't have enough certified lifeguard staff available to keep the pool open.

The sweltering summer heat of the past week has led some to ask why the Geneseo Outdoor Pool is closed to those wanting to cool down in the water.

"With our lifeguards leaving for college or involved in high school activities, we just don't have the staff to keep the pool open," said Molly Hamer, director of the Geneseo Park District.

The pool closed for the season on Aug. 13. The following day, school resumed in Geneseo.

"The earlier in August school starts, the more difficult it is for us to staff the pool," she said.

The staffing shortages have resulted in community members and retirees volunteering to serve as lifeguards during after-school or weekend hours, but Hamer said safety regulations make accepting those offers impossible.

"We appreciate the offers, but it would be irresponsible of us to accept them," she said.

Lifeguards at the Geneseo Outdoor Pool must meet standards set by PDRMA (Park District Risk Management Agency) and Starguards, an organization that sets lifeguard certification requirements.

"Lifeguard training has changed and become more rigorous over the years," said Hamer. "The lifeguards are doing more and more hours of training. Not only are they doing weekly training sessions, they're doing daily training. Basically, unless they've been working and training with us all summer as a lifeguard, they're not going to be able to work."

Starguards stipulations determine factors from how often a lifeguard rotates their head to scan the water to how safety belts are passed between lifeguards.

"Back in the day, they were able to just put a guard on the stand and that was it. Now there's so much more to the job," said Hamer.

"New lifeguards are required to go through 20 to 25 hours of training to become certified. Recertification for returning guards requires 10 to 15 hours of training. Guards are required to re-certify every year. A lifeguard's certification is void if they do not maintain required monthly training," said Hamer.

During the 2013 summer season, the pool employed 25 lifeguards — all but three of them are now at college or involved in after-school activities, said Hamer.

"We just can't open the pool in the fall unless we have the same guard staff available we had during the summer," she said. "It's all or nothing."

She said the pool's closing has been more of an issue this August "because of the weather we've been having."

The late heat is a contrast to earlier in the season. "We had such cool weather at first, we weren't even able to open until June 10," said Hamer.

Despite that, the pool still attracted 18,862 visitors this summer, down just slightly from the 19,000 average.

"It was a shortened summer, but we were still crowded," said Hamer.

Though the Geneseo Outdoor Pool is closed for the season, swimmers may still use the park district's indoor pool. Open swim times may be found at

Hamer said they're better able to staff the indoor pool, which only requires two lifeguards compared to the outdoor pool's required 10 guards.