CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. So ahead of the unofficial kickoff to swimming season — Memorial Day weekend — 8News visited the Collegiate School Aquatics Center in Chesterfield County to find out how they’re tackling this issue with 2nd graders.
“The YMCA and SwimRVA are working with all nine school districts in our region to partner with them to ensure every second grader has access to free swimming lessons as part of the second-grade curriculum,” explained Adam Kennedy, Executive Director for SwimRVA.
The program started in the late 1990s, and now 52 of 108 area elementary schools are participating.
“If we work together, governments, the private sector, nonprofits, this is a problem we can solve,” Kennedy said. “We can create access to swimming, we can create access to aquatics and this is a life skill that these children will take with them forever.”
SwimRVA says it’s never too soon to teach a child about being safe in the water.
“We start as early as six months, we have a parent-child class that we do starting at 6 months to three years, then we do preschool,” Dr. Debbie Kelo, Director of Programs for SwimRVA, said. “I say the earlier the better because then they don’t have that fear.”
Falling Creek Elementary School teacher Mackenzie Furman, whose second-grade class is participating in the program, said her students are doing more than simply learning how to swim.
“It’s done a really nice job of showing the kids a growth mindset,” she said. “A lot of them were a little bit nervous and timid at the beginning of the program and they’ve grown, their confidence has grown, and they’ve known that maybe I’m not there quite yet, but ill get there soon.”
Local first responders are also speaking out ahead of the holiday weekend on pool safety.