At long last, the Waynesville Recreation Center has been able to find lifeguards, allowing the water park to open two days a week, and the pool to stay open for more hours.

At the summer’s end when lifeguards returned to class, the pool hours were drastically cut back because of the staffing shortage.

With the start of the new year, the town was able to hire four lifeguards, two full-time and two part time, said Luke Kinsland, the aquatics supervisor at the pool.

This will allow the water park to be open from 1 to 6:30 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The exception will be Saturday, Jan. 22 when a swimming meet is set at the facility.

The additional lifeguard staff will allow pool hours to be expanded to be open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 am to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. The pool is closed on Sundays.

The new schedule starts Jan. 14.

Both Kinsland and Waynesville Parks and Recreation Director Rhett Langston were elated to find the needed staffing to provide more pool opportunities. Advertisements for help had been posted for much of last year, but only attracted a few nibbles, with no hires.

Kinsland said one hire was an older gentleman with the necessary certifications who was interested in part-time work, and others were college students who had finalized their school schedules and found times they could work in a part-time job.

“We’re only able to expand hours a little at a time because we need enough guards to cover for safety,” Kinsland explained. “With COVID, we need to have a depth of staff for call outs when someone is sick and for inclement weather when some aren’t able to get here. We need to anticipate crowds and have enough of staff to ensure safety.”

Having more lifeguards on staff is just one part of the equation to fully restoring pre-COVID operating hours at the recreation center, Langston said.

“We’re still down in staff overall,” he said. “We’re down three in indoor maintenance, one full-time person at the front desk and lots of guards. We’re still not at normal hours in terms of the whole center.”

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