ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Memorial Day is the unofficial kick-off to summer. Pools in the Blue Ridge are getting ready for the busy season.

Many are facing a real challenge in the opening process as they are still continuing to see lifeguard shortages.

Aquatic directors said they struggled to find enough lifeguards last year, and even though they are seeing a little bit of a rebound this year, they are still in need of more help.

Matthew Reedy, the Senior Director at the Kirk Family YMCA, said lifeguard certification can be expensive, and after Covid-19, people are more mindful of their finances.

“Here we have had an issue with access as well so a large part of the population especially locally can’t swim and so a swim test that’s required for lifeguard certification could appear a little daunting,” said Reedy.

It is not only a problem locally. Its sister locations throughout the Blue Ridge are experiencing the same thing. Reedy said they are mainly seeing the shortages during the daytime shift.

“Here at Kirk, we are roughly 45 lifeguards. At the other location, somewhere between Salem, would be somewhere between 25 and 35. Botetourt, potentially between 20 and 25. So, if you have like 40 shifts, ideally you have like 50 to 60 lifeguards,” said Reedy.

Other local pools are feeling the impact of the shortages as well.

“And I think that comes down to two kinds of issues. One, there’s just a lot of pools in Roanoke, so from your country clubs to your community pools, there’s a lot of kind of pools looking for this small amount of candidates. Second, big reason is it’s hard to find people who have the requirements to be a lifeguard,” said Morgan Richter the Head Coach of the Virginia Gator Swim Team.

He added that they will be able to open with the staff they have now but not everyone may be that lucky.

“And I’m afraid if we don’t find those candidates some pools might have to close down a couple of days or longer,” said Richter.

If you are looking to become a lifeguard, aquatic directors said do not be afraid to take the swim test and there are financial options that can help with the lifeguard courses.

Lifeguard Academy page

YMCA Employment page