If you've been an active user of the Strathmore Aquatic Centre recently, you may have noticed the schedule being a bit more limited than usual. This is due to a lifeguard shortage brought on by covid which has impacted towns all over Alberta and even Canada, so Strathmore isn't alone in facing this problem. However, even knowing that this isn't a Strathmore exclusive problem doesn't change the fact that it's been frustrating for some people who aren't able to swim as much as before.
The Town of Strathmore is fully aware of this issue, and Town of Strathmore's Manager of Recreation and Culture Budd Brazier said they've been working on fixing this issue since last year, and that payoff could finally be coming soon.
"With the pool lifeguard academy last summer, our intention was to try to recruit additional staff within the Town of Strathmore, that was somewhat successful, and then with that academy we were able to qualify hire lifeguards and then train lifeguards. But because of that process and the time it takes around that we've just had a limited amount of staff for operational hours. Now that staff are being trained, we're slowly getting to the point now with our scheduling that we can resume almost normal operational hours pre-covid," he said.
Through this academy, Brazier says the pool can expect eight new lifeguards to join the team in January. It takes a lot to be a lifeguard, so simply finding talented swimmers isn't enough. That's why it's taken so long to get these new incoming lifeguards deck ready, as they also have to understand first aid, specific life saving swimming strokes, scanning abilities, and more.
We're already starting to see a gradual reopening of normal schedule times, with a public swim scheduled for Saturday December 10, followed by public swims on both December 17 and 18. Brazier said the Town's plans to bring in more lifeguards will continue, which will hopefully prevent this from becoming an issue again.
"We're going to continue to run the lifeguard academy again this upcoming summer, but then also to prep younger candidates we're trying to implement the junior lifeguard club so (13-16 year olds) can come in and experience the lifeguarding situation scenarios within the environment as a volunteer."
As the pool gets more lifeguards, Brazier added you'll especially see a stronger return of public swims. Public swims have been in shorter supply compared to things like lane swim because public swims require more lifeguards on deck to account for the extra people that use public swim compared to things like lane swim.
While Brazier does expect January to have a significantly increased schedule, he did mention that as we get closer to Christmas the pool will scale back the hours operation since they see less activity and drop ins during this time.
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