A lifeguard at Kelly Pool Credit: Sydney Schaefer / Billy Penn

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After a year without public pools, it seems like Philadelphians can look forward to cooling off with a neighborhood swim again this summer. City officials aren’t ready to fully commit to a schedule, but they did put out the call for lifeguards — which is a pretty good sign.

“Parks & Recreation is hiring lifeguards in anticipation of a 2021 pool season,” department spokesperson Maita Soukup confirmed to Billy Penn.

Philadelphia has 76 public pools, which usually begin opening around the middle of June. Not last year.

It was mid-April when officials revealed that the onset of the pandemic was likely to leave the city with a $650 million budget hole, and that major cutbacks would be necessary. Alas, they announced, there would be no neighborhood swimming that summer. It made a hard summer even tougher for many residents.

“With no public pools…my children really had a hard time being their usual self,” said Latrisha Brown, a mother of three who lives in South Philadelphia.

Things look brighter for this season, though it’s unclear when the pools might open, or how many of them will be able to welcome swimmers. “Additional information on the city’s summer plans will be available in the coming weeks,” said Soukup, the Parks & Rec spokesperson.

Even a single closure can be a major bummer, since many families don’t have time or money to get away during the hot city months. The water offers a chance to cool off, and also becomes a warm weather community hub. When Fishtown’s Swimmo pool closed for three summers in a row, neighbors were crushed. Same thing when the pool in Bridesburg had to shutter for construction.

South Philly mom Brown’s neighborhood swim spot is O’Connor Pool at 26th and South. In normal times, she and her three teenagers hit it up twice a week. Last summer, Brown said. “At one point I thought about buying an above-ground pool, but by the time I decided to purchase it, it was too late.”

Latrisha Brown’s three kids pose in their neighborhood pools in summer 2019 Credit: Courtesy Latrisha Brown

She’s cautiously optimistic about this week’s announcement. Brown’s eager to get her kids back in the water, but not without certainty that it’s safe.

“If it reopens with a limit, I would be there with my children,” she said. “Hopefully the community continues to stay safe so we can all return to the pools and enjoy the outdoors.”

For now, the lifeguard hiring is a definite go.

Initial training and review will be hosted at two locations: Port Richmond’s Samuel Recreation Center, and St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in North Central. The city is looking for applicants aged 16 to 24. If you’re hired, you can expect to be paid between $15 and $17 an hour.

Want to apply? Check out Parks & Rec’s requirements here.

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Michaela Winberg

Michaela Winberg is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn. She covers LGBTQ people and culture, public spaces, and transportation and mobility. She also sometimes produces radio and web features...