Teaching Swimming in Elementary PE


MESSAGE FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT:

Before I get to changes at SGI, I’d like to share something personal.

I remember the first time I mastered “floating” in the pool. I was in the 8th grade and my best friend’s sisters took us to the New Kensington public pool. I grew up in a coal mining town outside of Pittsburgh. While our little town was filled with hard working coal miners and their equally hard working wives, we were short on swimming pools. As in, no one had one. I don’t even remember being in a pool prior to that trip to the public pool a couple of towns away. My swimming “lessons” started late in childhood with that trip and were sporadic at best.

Consequently, I’m not a great swimmer. The funny thing about that is that it’s the only exercise I can say that I truly love. About 10-12 years ago, we put in a pool at our home. My husband was adamantly against this, complaining about how much work a pool is, until I explained that I wanted to put in a pool because we could–I’d worked hard to get ahead and I knew we could afford it. It was something beyond anyone’s access when I was growing up and for me it was a symbol of my own achievement. Every day that our Western New York weather affords me, I’m swimming laps in our pool. I’m grateful that my husband listened to me and agreed that it was the very best reason for a pool plus that he puts in the work to take care of it for me.

Here I am more than forty years later as the superintendent of a school district where we have a school pool in the high school and that’s when we teach our students to swim. Do you know we have students who hit that 9th grade year and don’t know how to swim? This is completely illogical to me. That’s not the year when you want to admit to everyone that you don’t know how to swim. It’s irresponsible that we have a resource in our swimming pool and in our excellent PE teachers, and yet we aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to teach our elementary students to swim.

I know that there are opportunities for children to learn how to swim within our community. I’m grateful that there are so many families who can take advantage of those swimming lessons. However, that doesn’t afford access to every child. The beauty of a public education is that everyone gets access to the same opportunities. I contend that this needs to include swimming lessons in physical education classes for ALL elementary students.

We’re starting with fifth grade this year–that’s the year when it seems least disruptive to our school schedule, according to SES Principal Chris Scarpine. In meeting with our PE teachers on Monday, they confirmed for me that younger would be better and so we’ll work to move this to 3rd and 4th grade next year. Of course we’ll do this the right way, with plenty of certified instructors and life guards. I truly hope that our families and teachers will support this endeavor. Swimming is a life skill that can indeed be a life saving skill and it’s important for all of our students. Very grateful to the administrative and PE teams for working on the logistics to make this happen at Springville-Griffith Institute for CES and SES students this year.