Winchester’s Centennial Pool was forced to be closed for two days last week due to a shortage of lifeguards, causing a strong online reaction resulting in spirited debate. The Township posted online during the evening of July 20 that the Winchester Centennial Pool would be closed July 21 and 22, and the post was quickly shared to other social media groups.
“This is pretty pathetic,” wrote one social media user in response to the post. Another poster concurred, saying “Agreed. Taxes go higher, benefits go less.” Between the different posts, dozens of comments were made by locals about the closure. Many were angry about the temporary loss of service, while others shared words of support and understanding.
The lifeguard team at the Winchester Centennial Pool and the Chesterville Public Pool comprises familiar faces. This comes as little surprise, given that the lengthy and expensive courses necessary to achieve a lifeguarding certification were largely suspended for two years during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it also means that as young lifeguards grow older and go off to school or seek more permanent employment, a shortage of lifeguards can occur.
This year, the Township’s two pools are sharing lifeguards to try and offer as much service as possible with limited personnel. On July 21 and 22, the Chesterville Public Pool was able to remain open, but that was not good enough for some angry Winchester residents. One commenter wrote that the lifeguard shortage is “Thanks in part to our present government who made it too easy for Canadians during the 2-year pandemic, [so] that now no one wants to get back into work.”
Others offered explanations and pleaded for understanding, including one woman who shared her daughter’s story. “I know that it is very expensive and time consuming for the lifeguard and swim instructor training, first aid and CPR courses that [are] required of anyone who wants to be a lifeguard,” her comment reads. “We spent literally thousands for our daughter to get these certificates and they have to be continually re-certified. She got her first full time life guarding job [in the] summer of 2020. We all know what happened then… This year, she didn’t even consider [lifeguarding], because of the uncertainty of the work. She is not lazy or sitting home. She is starting her 4th year of university this fall and has worked part time in addition to her full time studies, while maintaining a 3.8 GPA. She is working full time this summer, but not at a pool. I get the frustration of people who want to use the facilities to cool off and enjoy our beautiful but short-lived summer weather, but don’t blame the kids. They have been affected by this pandemic in so many ways as well.”
The closure of the Winchester Centennial Pool was temporary, though it is not inconceivable that other closures will be necessary this summer due to the ongoing labour shortages that are affecting most industries. In the wake of last week’s closures, one certain thing is the renewed appreciation for this year’s local lifeguards who make summer swimming a cool, welcome reality.