All second-graders in Franklin County public schools will be offered free swim lessons at the YMCA.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer
Franklin County second-graders will learn to swim for free this year, thanks to a collaboration between Franklin County public schools and the Franklin County Family YMCA.
Between the months of August and December, second-graders (about 600 students) will participate in a total of 16 swim lessons.
"Being a county that is so lake oriented and water-safety oriented, it's going to be a big step for all of us to say that in 12 years, we will have (potentially) trained all students in the county," said Keith Pennington, director of curriculum and instruction for Franklin County public schools.
Schools will rotate in groups of three for eight consecutive 45-minute lessons, said Pennington. Once all schools have completed the first eight sessions, each school will rotate back into the program for the remaining eight sessions.
"My initial idea was to only do eight lessons," Pennington said. "But the experts in swim instruction said, to really get students to a point where we can say they they are able to save themselves if they've had no experience in water, they really need more than eight lessons."
The YMCA will provide the facility, lifeguards and the certified swim instructors, while the school system will provide transportation and teachers to supervise.
"This program is in conjunction with the YMCA, which was probably the driving force in the project and came to me with the idea," said Pennington.
"Thanks to the leadership of our excellent board, the efforts of our dedicated staff and the support of many partners, our Y is becoming a vital resource in this community," said YMCA CEO Jim Currie. "We're transforming lives, improving individuals' health and bringing people together like never before. We do all of this simply because it's the right thing to do for Franklin County."
"We're more than a place, or a program, or a gym," Currie added. "We're a cause. We've made a lot of progress in turning this Y around over the past 10 months, and we need the community's support now like never before."
The YMCA has worked hard to secure donations and support for the swim program, according to Pennington, and the school system has already received donations from several area businesses.
One major healthcare provider has donated string backpacks for carrying suits and towels.
"Roy Enslow from Bridgewater Marina has donated sets of goggles and will help us a lot with donations of end-of-season swimsuits," Pennington added.
Several years ago, the school system had a similar eighth-grade swim program that was axed due to budget constraints. The idea for student swim lessons was not revisited until now.
"We are very excited about it, and I think second grade is the perfect age for learning to swim," said Pennington.
The lessons are free to all students, and there is a program in place to assist families who cannot afford swimwear for their child.
"All the parents I've interacted with think this is a great idea," said Pennington. "It's something the kids will take with them for the rest of their lives."
Though the Y is covering the cost of certified instructors, lifeguards, equipment, pool maintenance and other capital costs for now, Currie said the organization is still in need of financial support from the community in order to keep the program afloat.
For more information,visit www.franklincountyymca.org or call Pam Rickard at (540) 312-4368.