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Students find lifeguarding an enjoyable summer job

By John Gibb

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Joe Woods enjoys helping people.

Woods, a rising junior at St. Albans High School, received a chance to do just that on his first day of lifeguard duty last week.

"Being a lifeguard seemed fun," Woods said. "I get to apply the CPR training I received to situations I may encounter at the pool."

Woods is like many of the 36 lifeguards employed by the Charleston Parks and Recreation. He is a student who spends his summer break poolside, keeping his eye on the thousands of people who come and go throughout the summer months.

Hayden Moore, a rising junior at West Liberty University, said he has been a lifeguard for three summers. He, too, enjoys his job.

"I enjoy spending my summers with some of my fellow lifeguard friends," Moore said. "I do have to help people once in a blue moon, but it's times like these that you appreciate the prior training you receive. Knowing CPR is crucial."

Until last Friday, the Cato and Vandalia city pools had failed to open because of a shortage of lifeguards.

Erin Dydland, aquatics director for the Charleston Family YMCA, has been instructing students for the past five months as they worked for lifeguard certification. She finished a course early last week, and 10 lifeguards were hired by the city, allowing Cato to open to swimmers Friday.

Rod Blackstone, senior assistant to Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, sent out a news release Monday announcing that four city pools now were open because enough lifeguards had been hired.

Pools at the North Charleston, Martin Luther King Jr. and Kanawha City community centers had opened earlier. Those three pools are open from noon to 6 p.m. daily.   

Lynn Watts, deputy director for Charleston Parks and Recreation, said her office works closely with Dydland and the YMCA. In fact, Dydland trains a majority of the lifeguards the city employs each summer.

Dydland said lifeguards have a huge responsibility and extensive training is needed to ensure safety at the pools.

"Being alert and scanning the pool at all times is important," Dydland said. "In addition, each pool is different so lifeguards must follow all safety procedures associated with that specific pool . . . from making sure chlorine levels are correct and administering swim tests to children not accompanied by adults."

Dydland said children who cannot pass a swim test must wear life jackets in the pool.

The YMCA offers nine lifeguard courses each year beginning in January and ending in May. The price per class is $200 and can be taught in person or online.

The classes have prerequisites. Participants have to complete a 300-yard swim using both freestyle and breaststroke, tread water for two minutes and swim to the bottom of the pool to pick up a 10-pound brick.

It takes nearly 25 hours of training to acquire certification. CPR and First Aid skills are also taught.

"It is important for students to sign up for lifeguard courses early," Dydland said. "Many wait until May and spots fill up fast. If people get their certification early on, we won't run into situations we have had in the past where the city is forced to leave a pool closed because of a shortage of guards."

Dydland said a certification lasts two years and lifeguards are required to go through more training to maintain their certification.

Because of recent changes in pool regulation and for insurance purposes, diving boards at Cato and the other city pools have been stripped.

With the opening of Cato, 10 lifeguards were added to the city's staff.

More guards are needed to open Vandalia, a small neighborhood pool on Clifton Road on a hill on the south side of the Kanawha River near the city's border with South Charleston.

The city typically hires about 40 lifeguards each summer.

When Jones took office, he directed that admission to the city pools be free, saying children in disadvantaged communities should not be denied the opportunity to swim. Jones has directed that again this year.

The Cato pool is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Contact writer John C. Gibb at john.gibb@dailymail.com or 304-348-4872.

 


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