Lehigh Valley

Lifeguard shortage forces Bethlehem pools to limit hours

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Locked and lonely, it's a sad summer sight for south Bethlehem residents. The Yosko Park Pool on Atlantic Street has been closed all season.

"It plays a major role, because all the kids over and play and go swimming there," said Francis Scott, the mother of four.

Yosko's splash park has been filling the water void, however, the pool is finally set to make its first splash this summer on Monday, splitting the week with Westside. The reason? A shallow pool of lifeguard applicants.

"I'm surprised. I thought kids just needed a summer job being a lifeguard." said Jane Persa, Bethlehem's director of recreation.

Persa said she's received about half the number of lifeguard applicants as last year and doesn't have enough to safely staff both pools.

"It's not an easy job to do," said Jessica Rutt, who has been a lifeguard in Bethlehem for four years. "Takes some effort to get certification, but I'm very surprised. It doesn't affect school at all."

Certification is about $250, plus time to be trained, and you must complete a city background check.

Persa said there has been talk of upping the pay.

"We did have that discussion, yes. We try to stay competitive with other places," she said.

Lifeguards earn between $8.25 and $12 an hour. As of now, Persa has four applicants, but she said she needs about 10.

The lack of lifeguards is forcing those like regular Westside user Annette Corona to amend her pool routine.

"Quite a few us come to exercise, not just swim and hang out," she said.

Overall, Persa said attendance has been trending down at city pools over the past several years.

The splash park is why Yosko has been closed and Westside open. Starting Monday, the two will split the week. Yosko will be open Mondays, Wednesdays and Sunday; Westside will be open the other days.

Officials said they hope to have enough lifeguards by the end of July to have both pools fully open.

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