As summer hits its peak, pool attendance increases dramatically. However, children's safety in the water is always a constant concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-14.
JoAnn Gould, director of Recreation and Community Services for South Suburban Parks and Recreation, shares these concerns.
“It's vital for children, regardless of where they live, to learn how to swim,” she said. “It encourages socialization and athleticism, it's a life skill, and it's a life skill that could save their life.”
In addition, Gould recommended that children be educated early.
“In general,” she says, “whether it's learning to swim or any other activity, from skate boarding to mountain climbing, it's best to learn before you develop fears. It comes easier to young children.”
Terrance, Torin and Emilia Kelly are three young children taking advantage of South Suburban's swim-instruction classes. Terrance, 10, was enthusiastic about his progress so far.
“Before, I was not as good at the front stroke but they've helped me learn how to breathe better,” he said at Holly Pool in Centennial.
His 8-year-old brother, Torin, was a fan of one technique in particular.
“You have to pretend that you have a watermelon in your tummy, so that you're fat and then you float. Once I was doing a back glide and I started to sink and so I ate another watermelon and then I was fine.”
Their mother, Lisa Kelley, has seen a marked improvement in her children's abilities since starting the classes.
“They're definitely more comfortable in the water. It's great that they've been able to start learning those skills and those techniques,” she says.
Gould says that even as popular as the classes are now, “we have not yet reached capacity, we want to be full.”
She also mentions that South Suburban offers scholarships, saying, “The price should not be the reason that children do not learn how to swim. Basic recreation should be accessible to everyone, and learning how to swim falls right in the middle of that. The registration fee is price affordable; there are places that ask for much more for the same amount of time in the water with an instructor.
“A lot of people don't understand that there are dangers, even if there is a lifeguard. The season is short, 90 to 100 days, but a lot can happen in 90 to 100 days. This is why we turn up the heat, both literally and figuratively on safe swimming.”
The classes offered at South Suburban are available to children ages 3-12, with various age groupings available at each pool. Class sizes are generally small, with meeting times from 9 to 11 a.m. on most days. Prices range from $22 to $58 for district members.