Lifeguard shortage reduces pool hours in Ocala

City cannot hire more guards this season due to time constraints with training

The City of Ocala’s Aquatic Fun Centers will implement a reduction in hours of operation beginning Tuesday. These reduced hours of operation are being initiated to maintain state safety guidelines amid a critical lifeguard shortage.

OCALA, Fla. – The City of Ocala’s Aquatic Fun Centers will implement a reduction in hours of operation beginning Tuesday.

These reduced hours of operation are being initiated to maintain state safety guidelines amid a critical lifeguard shortage.

According to the American Lifeguard Association, there is a nationwide lifeguard shortage affecting about a third of the country’s public pools.

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“Unfortunately, this has been a trend over the last several years, even before COVID-19,” said Ocala Recreation and Parks Director, Preston Pooser. “We have experienced increased challenges in recruitment and retention of summer lifeguards. We begin the annual recruitment process as early as February and offer highly competitive pay. However, only 60% of our positions were filled this summer.”

Ashley Dobbs with the City of Ocala said the city must follow strict safety guidelines that include a 25 to 1 swimmer-to-lifeguard ratio.

In order to compensate for their current lifeguard shortage, Dobbs said they will alternate opening hours between the city’s two recreation centers.

“So the facility that we are in today might be open one day, but the next day it’ll be closed, and we are going to open the other one ad we’re just going to alternate back and forth Wednesday through Saturday,” she said.

Dobbs said she hopes more people will apply next year because right now the city cannot hire any more lifeguards due to time constraints with training.

“So to become a lifeguard, you have to go through lifeguard training, rescue training, and CPR classes. Because that is such a long process, we try to get that done early in the year,” she said.

The Jervey Gantt Aquatic Fun Center — 2390 SW 36th Ave. — and the Hampton Aquatic Fun Center — 255 NW Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. — will alternate operating days and continue to host two sessions per day.

Effective July 12, pool hours of operations will be as follows:

Hampton Aquatic Fun Center

  • Wednesday, July 13 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Friday, July 15 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 19 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 21 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 23 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday July 27 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Friday, July 29 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 30 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. *

Jervey Gantt Aquatic Fun Center

  • Tuesday, July 12 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 14 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 16 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, July 20 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Friday, July 22 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Tuesday, July 26 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 28 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 30 – 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. *

*If staffing levels meet safety guidelines

Admission per session for a single individual is $2 for children ages 17 and under and $3.50 for adults ages 18 and up.

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About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.