City facing summer program staffing shortages
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and capacity limits put a damper on summer plans.
This year, staff shortages could limit the city’s summer programming options.
“We are facing, going into our summer opening here with playgrounds, a significant staff shortage,” Recreation Superintendent James Anderson said.
Anderson said in a normal year, the city typically staffs 32 playground sites throughout the city with about 67 staff members, three managers and 10-15 substitutes.
“Last year, in 2020, we reduced the number of playgrounds because of staffing, down to 16,” he said. “We had 38 staff, three managers and 11 subs. And we got through the summer effectively maintaining that staffing level through the entire summer. This year we are looking at essentially the same scenario.”
Again, due to staff shortages, only 16 parks will have summer programming in 2021.
This year, Colburn and Red Smith parks were added to the list, while Perkins and Eisenhower were removed.
Anderson said the changes were based on past participation numbers, summer lunch numbers, location, shelter size and staff feedback.
Anderson said the department is still hiring and will add sites if more staff is hired.
“If we hire more staff, then we’ll go right down our priority list, we have all 32 parks pretty much outlined on a priority list and we’ll just keep adding parks as we hopefully hire more staff,” he said.
The city’s summer playground program sites are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday from June 15 through Aug. 20 and are open to children ages 6 to 18, with participants under 7 needing parental supervision.
Staff organize a variety of activities, special events, games and sports throughout the day.
Lunch, through the Green Bay school district, is also provided daily.
“It’s a really good summer program,” Anderson said. “It is a good tradition in our community.”
The city is also in need of lifeguards to open and operate its three facilities – the Resch Aquatic Center, Colburn Pool and Joannes Aquatic Center.
“So to operate our three facilities at the base, minimal level, just kind of scraping by we need about 50 lifeguards, to just operate our three pools,” Recreation Supervisor Ann Moeller said. “What I currently have, full-time, folks committed to working a regular schedule, I have 14 lifeguards. I do have about a dozen people on a sub list as well. I have 17 applicants that are going through the interview and swim test screening process. That’s been really successful so far, so I’m confident that the majority of those applicants will go through lifeguard training.”
The training, however, takes place June 15-17, the week after opening weekend set for June 12.
“We need them done with school so they have time during the day to do that course,” Moeller said. “But we will still need about 18 lifeguards to just get to that bare minimum level to get those three pools open.”
Moeller said she currently has enough staff to operate the Resch Aquatic Center – which needs 10 lifeguards a day to run.
“Joannes is our largest staff – we need 13 to operate on a daily basis,” she said. “Colburn, depending on what sections we open and if we have the inflatables, we need eight. We are going to make decisions on what opens, 100% on what we have for staff. As we continue to train and certify new lifeguards, we will continue to make decisions on what we can open.”
Both Moeller and Anderson said they have gotten creative with recruitment.
“We have had a constant presence on our department’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts,” Moeller said. “We will be posting to TikTok in the coming weeks. And we’ve created testimonial videos from current staff on why they love their jobs at the pool.”
Moeller said she encourages anyone who is interested in lifeguarding and has a strong swimming background to apply.
“We do not require applicants to already be trained for (lifeguard positions),” she said. “We will provide the training for no cost to the applicant/employee.”