BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The American Red Cross limited or suspended most of its lifeguard certification courses during COVID-19 restrictions, causing a severe shortage of certified pool staff.

Pandemic pool shutdowns are now seeing a lingering effect — a shortage of swim instructors and lifeguards.

Tadpole Academy Swim School in Prairieville is preparing for its busiest season, but there is a lack of manpower. Instructor Taylor Sacco says the shortage poses a safety risk with drownings being one of the leading causes of death among children.

“This is our biggest year in the past nine years that we’ve been open,” said Sacco. “Right now we have about 35 instructors and we’re looking to hire about 10 more.”

May is National Water Safety Month. The Louisiana Department of Health reports a 60 percent increase in infant and child drownings in 2020.

“It’s the leading cause of death for children under the age of five, is drowning,” said Shelly Rodgers, CEO of Crawfish Aquatics.

Rodgers says it’s critical for Louisiana residents to learn how to swim because the water is everywhere.

“We have ponds, rivers, you know, ditches that overflow from flooding, and lots of homeowners with pools,” she said.

Sacco says they are doing their best to avoid cutting back classes.

“We try to stick to like about a four to one ratio when it comes to like students and teacher. And, so it might just have to make the ratio a little bigger, about having to cut a bit of classes, less people,” he said.

Crawfish Aquatics provides the following tips for National Water Safety Month:

  • Watch children when they are in or around water at all times; avoid getting distracted
  • Get a ‘water watch tag’
  • Teach children how to swim at a young age, if possible
  • Don’t leave items in the pool at night