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Milwaukee County trains final class of lifeguards amid serious summer shortage

Posted at 10:20 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 23:20:23-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee County Parks is training its final class of lifeguard hopefuls this week.

Still, the county will remain far from the total it needs to staff all its beaches and pools this summer.

The four-day class ends on Thursday. On Saturday morning, candidates must pass a test.

"I heard there was a lifeguard shortage actually on the news, so I thought, why not go out and help," said Santana Buchanan.

Santana Buchanan
Santana Buchanan

It's a summer job that's paying more than ever before at $16.14 an hour.

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"I think that's pretty good for a lifeguard and they're giving you the training, so, I think that's pretty good," Buchanan said.

Buchanan swam all four years of high school and looked strong in the 100 meter on Monday at Pulaski Pool. That trial alone weeded out several of the final classes 13 applicants.

An instructor said she was optimistic about the rest who stayed in the water. If they all pass, that would bring total lifeguards to about 70 for the summer.

The county had hoped to hire 200 lifeguards.

SUMMER BEACHES
This summer, Bradford Beach will go without lifeguards for the third straight year. Only four public outdoor pools — not including wading pools or splash pads — will open this summer.

This summer, Bradford Beach will go without lifeguards for the third straight year. Only four public outdoor pools — not including wading pools or splash pads — will open this summer.

And McKinley Beach — known for its dangerous rip currents — will remain closed while those currents are studied.

On Monday, the fire department pulled a teenager from the water near that park and rushed her to a hospital. TMJ4 News has confirmed through the medical examiner that she died.

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DEATH
On Monday, the fire department pulled a teenager from the water near that park and rushed her to a hospital. TMJ4 News has confirmed through the medical examiner that she died.

"You can be sitting in a spot by McKinley Marina, and get kind of swept in a riptide that shows up," said Joel Rechlitz, chief of Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion 10. "Once you're caught, it's extremely dangerous to get out."

The parks department has struggled for years to staff lifeguard positions, and the pandemic has only made hiring more difficult.

"I think it will definitely be challenging, but I'm up for it. My brother was a lifeguard before, and he said he had to save a person one time," said Audrey Watzka, a local high school student.

Audrey Watzka
Audrey Watzka

Watzka, like Buchanan, also believes that for a summer job, the pay isn't bad.

"I think it's pretty good compared to some of the other ones I've seen," said Watzka.

You can find out how to become a lifeguard on the Milwaukee County Park's website.

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