Toronto cancels 169 swim classes due to instructor shortage

Toronto is canceling dozens of city-run swimming courses amid a shortage of swimming instructors and lifeguards.

The city says that starting today, it will begin to cancel 169 courses because swim instructors could not be confirmed. The move will affect around 1,140 attendees.

“Registrars will be contacted individually and offered either a full refund or a program credit if a suitable replacement program is not found,” the city said in a release.

According to the city, the staffing shortages have been caused by certification delays affecting lifeguards and swimming instructors across North America. Mandatory certification and recertification programs were put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city said that it has been working since January to hire staff at “an enhanced rate” and to facilitate safe certification to address the backlog and that efforts are expected to continue into the summer to train more staff.

But while 196 instructors have been hired to teach 1,919 courses, some gaps nevertheless remain.

“Every effort was made to minimize cancellations and, where possible, staff are combining programs with low registration numbers and allocating staff to higher-demand programs,” the city said.

“In addition, staff will register participants in alternate nearby programs if space becomes available. Staff often rebalance classes in this way following registration.”

It takes over 100 hours of instruction to become a lifeguard and an extra 40 hours of training to become a swimming instructor.

Earlier this month, Mayor John Tory put out a call for urgent qualified residents to apply to be a lifeguard or swim instructor in order to help narrow the gap.

The city says it currently has 700 lifeguards, enough to oversee all 55 of its swimming pools and up to 10 of its beaches. A full schedule of operations at Toronto’s public outdoor pools is set to begin on June 30.

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