Schools to offer swimming lessons to all 2nd-graders

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Wilson County Schools second-graders will be given the opportunity to learn to swim in a program announced at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.

School board Chairwoman Christine Fitch said the lessons are tentatively scheduled to begin in the spring.

“At one point we had swimming opportunities for our third-grade students through a grant from the YMCA and in conjunction with Wilson Parks and Recreation,” Fitch said.

Wilson Parks and Recreation will again host the second-grade program which is being paid for with a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“There is to be a collaboration to provide second-grade students with a level of swimming proficiency,” Fitch said.

“The rationale for this is not only for the physical wellness of our students, but because drowning is the No. 1 cause of accidental death among children in the United States, particularly under the age of 5.”

Each of Wilson County Schools’ 891 second-graders would have five lessons each in this program.

The time allotted for the lessons will be one hour, but that would include some time for students to change clothes.

The YMCA will be providing swim attire for those students who need it.

The lessons will utilize the SEAL SwimSafe Monitor System. The Wilson YMCA was awarded $11,000 from Blue Cross Blue Shield to implement the SEAL SwimSafe Monitor System.

Children will wear the SEAL SwimSafe bands around their necks during the swimming lessons. The bands can be set for the child’s level of swimming proficiency. If a child stays submerged underwater for an unsafe amount of time, a central hub will flash warning lights and emit an alarm siren. The hub can communicate with up to 60 bands at a time.

“Because they can only do 60 students at a time, there will be pairings within the school,” Fitch said. “Some schools have more than 60 second-graders and some schools have much smaller classes, so a more detailed list will be worked out. We had a lot of discussion as to some of the logistics that will occur.”

Parents will have to sign permission slips for students who want to participate in the program.

“In this particular program, fundamental water safety skills will be included,” Fitch said.

Tentative dates for the swimming program are Feb. 1 to March 30.

Quoting school board member Gary Farmer, Fitch said “it’s not just about swimming lessons, but it’s also about drown-proofing our children to make sure that they are indeed safe.”

“We look forward to that again being an integral part of the Wilson County Schools,” Fitch said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five people who die from drowning are children age 14 and younger and for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.

African-American children ages 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than whites. African-Americans 11-12 years of age,drown in swimming pools at rates 10 times higher than whites, according to the CDC.