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Winnipeg offering fewer swimming lessons than in past years amid lifeguard shortage

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After a number of parents were left frustrated this week over not getting their kids into swimming lessons, the City of Winnipeg confirmed a drop in the number of courses it offers.

On Wednesday, the city confirmed there are 1,057 swimming lesson courses being offered in spring 2023. This is about half the number of lessons that were completed in spring 2019 when there were 2,118 courses.

The number of lessons has steadily dropped since 2019. In fall 2022, the city offered 1,500 swimming lesson courses, and in winter 2023 there were 1,350 course options.

Winnipeg provided these numbers after the Leisure Guide sign-up on Tuesday when a number of parents took to social media to vent over a lack of swimming lesson spots.

"Full, full, full – all my options were full," said mother of three Lindsay Primmer. "I went basically back to scratch to everything on every single class and that was at 8:03 [a.m.]"

Community services committee chair Coun. John Orlikow told CTV News Winnipeg the lack of spots has to do with a shortage of lifeguards and instructors, which is an impact of the pandemic.

"As we reopened, we quickly realized a lot of those lifeguards weren't coming back," Orlikow said.

According to the city, 84 per cent of swimming lessons for spring 2023 have been filled. Parents are encouraged to check online for swimming lesson options.

Winnipeg added that it currently has about 255 lifeguards, but its target is to secure 300 before the summer.

The city continues to recruit lifeguards and is making efforts to fill the vacancies; however, it expects it will take time to return to full staffing levels.

The city said as it provides more certified staff to its team, it will expand its swimming course offerings.

- With files from CTV’s Jeff Keele.

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