BOSTON (CBS) – Despite a lifeguard shortage threatening to close many state pools, the Department of Conservation and Recreation opened venues for swimming throughout the state on Saturday.

The DCR, which operates 70 pools and beaches, said earlier this month there were still 175 lifeguard positions that needed to be filled.

As a result, officials said it was possible pools would be forced to close.

But for the first time, the state was able to offer free certification classes to lifeguard candidates. Those courses normally cost $200.

Thanks to the free courses, the DCR hired 85 new lifeguards and will open for the season as scheduled on Saturday.

“There is a difference between the optimal staffing number and the safely guarded number. We are confident that we will be able to safely guard all regularly guarded pools and waterfronts this summer,” DCR officials said. “We will continue recruiting and training guards throughout the summer.”

Anyone interested in applying for lifeguard jobs can apply on the state’s website.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports:

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