OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — It’s a matter of safety.

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, many Kansas City-area swimming pools are preparing to open, including some that don’t have the lifeguards they need before opening the gates.

In Overland Park, the city is still hiring lifeguards. The city’s aquatics department is preparing to open four outdoor pools on May 28. Renee Reis, who manages the city’s pools, started as a pool employee years ago.

Reis said her department employs 300 people, 85% of whom are part-time lifeguards. Online job listings show the jobs pay $15 per hour.

“We don’t really set a number because its difficult to say ‘I need five or 10 people.’ It’s dependent on how many hours they can work. I could get 10 kids, but they only want to work five hours per week, but I have 50 hours to cover,” Reis said.

In Shawnee, blue water is ready to go. The city’s primary aquatic center is filled and ready for swimmers.

Sean Keenan, Shawnee’s recreation superintendent, still needs to hire 10 lifeguards. Keenan said that isn’t unusual, and it shouldn’t prevent the city from opening pools for the summer.

“They’re up there for hours on end making sure people are safe,” Keenan said Monday. “Without that line of defense, it could be really grim. It’s absolutely essential for our operations.”

Applicants for these jobs will need a certain level of proficiency in the water. Hiring managers said they’ll help new hires get certified to save lives.

In nearby Olathe, a city spokesperson said 200 lifeguards are needed for the city’s six pools. Last year, the city had about 230 lifeguards. As of Monday, the city of Olathe had more than 300 lifeguards hired for the summer.

Across the county line in Kansas City, Kansas, the Parkwood Swimming Pool needs at least eight lifeguards per day to operate, according to a spokesperson from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. 

Reis also pointed out this is a first job for many young people, so they’re gathering on-the-job training that will help them in the future.

Lifeguard jobs in Overland Park and Shawnee are posted on each city’s website.