Helping kids learn to swim is goal of Lexington program targeting 5 elementary schools

tcrumbie@herald-leader.comJune 5, 2014 

Third-grade students from across Fayette County expanded their learning beyond the classroom on Thursday by going to YMCAs as part of Lexington Swims, a pilot program to teach kids the basics of pool etiquette including how to swim and stay safe.

Over 200 students from Arlington, Booker T. Washington Academy, Harrison, William Wells Brown and Russell Cave went to one of three participating Ys for the two-hour program. They will have the opportunity to follow up with free swimming lessons this summer.

"The majority of these students have never been in a big pool like this and never had even opportunities to swim," Superintendent Tom Shelton said. "They're learning a lifelong skill."

Luci Edwards, 8, a student at Russell Cave, said she enjoyed getting to leave school early to swim even though she has a pool at her house. She plans to improve her swimming during the summer months.

Julie Balog, vice president of YMCA of Central Kentucky, said kids who do not get experience with swimming early typically do not learn to swim as an adult.

A 2010 study commissioned by USA Swimming and conducted by the University of Memphis, found that nearly 70 percent of black children and 58 percent of Hispanic children have low or no swim ability compared to 40 percent of white children. The schools that were picked to participate were based on these demographics.

The lessons included teaching kids to maintain their balance in the pool as well as how to swim forward and backward. The lessons weren't strictly serious. Kids were able to see who could make the biggest splash after a cannonball. Some paddled in Styrofoam boats.

Lexington Swims was created though a $10,000 donation from Bates Security. Jeremy Bates, general manager of Bates Security, said teaching swimming safety goes along with home safety.

Balog said it's important that kids stay active during the summer.

"We really want kids to be active," Balog said. "So it's important that they do things like get outside and be in the pool and swim."

After the kids finished their lessons, they received a voucher for free eight-week swimming lessons at YMCA of Central Kentucky. Balog said if there is enough support Lexington Swims could be expanded to more schools.

Trey Crumbie: (859) 231-1687. Twitter: @TreyCrumbieHL.

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