Metro Pools Facing Staff Shortages, Closings Expected

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Local public pools across the metro can’t find enough employees to run the pools, and no city has been left out to dry like Des Moines.

“Our staffing levels are significantly under where we need to be, to be at full service levels,” said Jen Fletcher of Des Moines Park and Recreation.

To keep the pools open full time, the city needs around 190 staff members. As of today, they’ve hired 2/3 of the staff required. That said, we can expect to see the pools closed far more often than normal. 

“Yeah. Unfortunately, yes,” said Fletcher. 

This issue is nothing new. In 2016, they had to close the pools routinely because of low staffing, but didn’t expect it would be this bad. To combat the low numbers, the parks department got out and recruited more students than ever.

“We went to every single high school in Des Moines and visited with them during the lunch hour. We handed out pamphlets. We worked with the neighborhood associations. We exhausted all possible efforts we could,” said Fletcher.   

This problem isn’t unique to just Des Moines, though--other metro pools can’t find help, either. 

"Regrettably, yes. Literally, we are all in the same boat, all in the same pool, which ever you want to use,” said Fletcher.

West Des Moines is going to Facebook and flat out asking for teens to help to save summer.

Brian Longren runs the water park in Clive, and he knows hiring is quite the headache.

“Yes. It’s getting harder it seems like each year,” said Longren.

All three of the cities routinely talk about this problem. They can’t pinpoint one reason why they can’t hire more students, but they have some guesses.

“We certainly are competing with the fast food places that are paying a higher wage, and we know that is a challenge,” said Fletcher.

It’s not just money, though. Longren says his student workers are expected to do more than ever over the summer, when it comes to sports and school.

“Because we have some students, staff that have extracurricular activities and sometimes it’s hard to negotiate those,” said Longren.

Fletcher says the city will make one final push to hire more staff and encourages any interested parties to visit their website