Plano summer recreation programs in peril as city struggles to find employees for seasonal jobs

A looming staffing shortage in the Plano parks and recreation department could cut into summer

A looming staffing shortage in the Plano parks and recreation department could cut into summer programs if more applicants are not quickly found, city representatives said via email and phone interviews.

Specifically, the shortage could affect summer day camps, swimming classes, open swim time and operating hours at recreation centers, aquatic facilities and the Nature & Retreat Center at Oak Point Park.

“We may not be able to open all pools, or if we do, we may have to have reduced hours,” city spokesperson Steve Stoler said in an email response.

The number of applications the department normally receives for the jobs is about 25% fewer than most years, Susie Hergenrader, recreation services manager, said in a phone interview.

COVID-19 safety concerns and closing of recreation programs last year has amplified the problem, she said. Many former employees who wanted to keep working throughout the year have since moved on to other jobs. Normally, many of these workers would would have returned this summer, according to the city.

“COVID has made a challenging situation even worse,” Stoler said.

Stoler said the pandemic has also made parents hesitant about letting their teenage children apply for the jobs. Face masks are not required, and people are often active, breathing hard and sweating. Additionally, being a lifeguard means coming into close contact with people during a rescue.

The pandemic also forced the city to put its lifeguard classes on hold for six months. The classes have resumed, but the number of potential employees taking the classes has not rebounded, Stoler said.

“These classes typically provide us many of our lifeguards,” he said.

Stoler said the city often has long waitlists for swimming lessons, and may have to offer fewer than planned.

If the number of applicants does not increase significantly, the city will try to consolidate programs and reduce hours — if that becomes necessary — rather than cancel any programs, Hergenrader said.

Applicants do not have to live in Plano, Hergenrader said. Pay for the positions ranges from about $9 an hour to $15 an hour. The city has more information about each position available on its website.

“As long as they can get to work, we are happy to have them,” she said.