Elmen drained with lifeguard shortages

Elmen drained with lifeguard shortages
Sophomore Learn to Swim instructor Eve McInerney sits down with her class before they swim. Photo by Olivia Bertino.

The Learn to Swim program at Augustana is in need of lifeguards, water assistants and swim instructors.

The program currently has about 25 workers and would like to add 15 more members to the pool staff. Logan Haak, a Learn to Swim program director, said he wants to have enough employees so each would only work one night a week.

“If they can only work Mondays that would be ideal,” Haak said. “That’s my perfect scenario.”

The Elmen Center currently has lifeguards, swim instructors and leadership positions filled by full-time students. Haak says many of these students work “night after night after night” because they are doing more than one job.

The timeclock for the week of Sept. 25 shows that 11 people worked one night, two students worked two nights, and five students worked three nights. Of these students, they worked a range of two to five hours a night.

“We need more,” Mark Hecht, the director of Recreational Services, said. “I wish there were 10 to 15 more that were knocking at my door.”

Students working more than they would like is not the only issue that has come about with being understaffed. The Elmen Center has also had to cut pool hours.

“We had to cut six hours a week of open swim time because we didn’t have enough lifeguards,” Hecht said.

Originally, open swim went from 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, but because of conflicting class schedules and the lack of lifeguards on staff, Hecht said the Elmen had to cut it down to only twice a week.

Hecht also mentioned Rec Services has adjusted how swim lessons are run. Usually, there are lifeguards both in the water and on the deck, but recently Hecht said they have not been able to have a lifeguard on deck. Instead, they have had to train other staff to be an extra set of eyes during lessons.

To encourage more people to become lifeguards or swim instructors, Hecht said Rec Services is looking into holding training courses on campus to certify students. Haak mentioned Rec Services also will pay potential workers half the cost of certification if they complete it elsewhere.

According to both Hecht and Haak, flexibility is also important in addressing the issue of staffing. They want to have enough employees so students can work when they want to work.

For instance, if a student was to start working on the pool staff, they would tell Haak when they would like to work. Then they would be expected to work that shift for the full eight weeks the Learn to Swim program is in session. Students can find subs if they cannot work some nights, but if they are swim instructors, they are recommended to only miss two shifts.

“It really makes a difference with young kids when they have a consistent teacher,” Hecht said.

Outside of the pool staff, Hecht said the Elmen Center has not struggled to find workers. Over the summer, they interviewed close to 75 students and hired 40 new employees. Since then, more students have also expressed interest working in the building.

“I have had a number of students come to me who have inquired about a desk position or a weight room position, and I have had to say to that group, ‘If you’re not work-study eligible right now, I cannot add you,’” Hecht said.

Hecht said he recommends students who are considering working at the Elmen to talk to other student employees to get their perspectives and see if it is the “best place to work.”

Head weight room supervisors Kaylee Frye and Peter Kahnke are both in their second year with Rec Services. Their job mainly focuses on the administrative work behind the weight room, while also sometimes working as weight room supervisors.

“I literally love it so much,” Kahnke said. “It’s so great.”

Kahnke also said he really enjoys working at the Elmen because of the positive and mature environment.

“They’re open to new ideas and open to people being who they want to be, but it is also professional,” Kahnke said.

Frye said her favorite part of working at the Elmen Center is becoming friends with coworkers and planning the Late Night events, but she said she doesn’t enjoy when her job gets busy and she is stuck working more shifts than usual.

“Although I do enjoy my job, it’s like, ‘Okay, I do need to take a break and make sure I have time for my studies,’” Frye said.

Haak said he hopes to employ more students to the pool staff so students can continue to enjoy working at the Elmen with reasonable hours and have a nice balance between work and school.

He also said he thinks the Learn to Swim program is a great job for those who want to make an impact on the youth of Sioux Falls.

“You’re teaching a skill that somebody’s going to have for the rest of their life,” Haak said.