San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 14th, 2009
Hays CISD teaching first graders how to swim


Against a backdrop in which school districts are assessed by student performance on objective academic tests, Hays CISD officials have decided that there’s value in teaching young students how to swim.

Starting this week, first graders at Hemphill Elementary School and Tom Green Elementary School are taking part in a pilot program in a Hays CISD partnership with the Hays Community YMCA at FM 1626 and RM 967 just west of Buda.

Kimbroly Pool, the school district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said every first grade student in the school district eventually will participate in the program, if the pilot succeeds.

The students will be transported every day from Hemphill and Tom Green to the YMCA, where they will undertake an activity-based curriculum including water safety, swimming instruction, wellness and character building.

“Water safety is so important,” Pool said. “These classes will give them the tools to know how to survive near the water.”

Said Hemphill Principal Mike Hanson, “We live in a community full of water recreation activities that enrich our children’s lives. Basic swimming skills are critical so our children can safely access water sports. The skills that our students will be learning have the potential to save their lives.”

Brett Kiester, program director of Austin’s YMCA, said the partnership – the first of its kind in Central Texas – is patterned after a program in California.

“We are big in aquatics at the Y in Austin, and we take it personally whenever there is an accident,” Kiester said. “We feel that every kid should be afforded the chance to learn how to swim. We can’t drown-proof them, but we can give them a skills set necessary to be safe around the water.”

Each swim lesson will include stroke development, character development, rescue skills, water sports and personal development, Hanson said.

Kiester said the younger the student the better, because in many cases, “the fear has not be established yet and they are easier to work with.”

The Hays CISD administration said the only cost to the district will be transportation from the students’ schools to the YMCA.

Hanson said the students also will participate in a Youth Interactive, a fitness development program for active lifestyles. The program will introduce students and their families to programs offered by the Hays Community YMCA.

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