Statewide Lifeguard Shortage Seen In Coachella Valley

Carmela Karcher

It’s officially the first day of summer and what normally would be a busy afternoon at the Palm Desert Aquatic Center was quiet.

Not by choice, but because they don’t have enough lifeguards to stay open throughout the day.

“I can only do and we can only do what we can with the staff that we have,” Aquatic Manager David Keyes said.

He says it’s been a struggle finding lifeguards since the center reopened in 2020.

“You can only have so many hours open and an Aquatic Center based on the amount of guards you have,” Keyes shared.

Two years later, the struggle continues.

“With the summer heat that we experience, we don’t want to run our staff into the ground,” Keyes continued. “I looked at the schedule the other day and it’s only one page. Typically, even last year, we have one and a half pages with lifeguards, but it’s just one sheet that’s got about 40 lifeguards on it. So when you’re open seven days a week, it’s difficult to be open 16 hours a day which is what we used to be back pre-COVID.”

Because of this, the aquatic center is forced to shut down four days a week from noon to 4 p.m. during the hottest part of the day.

Which then affects their stream of revenue.

“We haven’t increased our rates since 2011,” Keyes said. “The facility is very affordable. It’s just managing that, you know, if we’re not bringing the revenue, it’s also because I’m not staffing.”

And like many businesses struggling to find employees, Keyes is pointing to the pandemic.

“I think it’s because more people don’t want to work,” he explained. “We could get in a bidding war if we wanted to and try to compete with the hotels, even though we’re public. A lot of the age group that we hire is 16 to 22, but they’re finally able to go back out again and experience the world.”

The Palm Desert Aquatic Center is hiring and paying for certification classes.

They have one next Monday and the final day for people to come in for the prerequisite is this Friday.

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