Swim safe Lowcountry

  • Thursday, June 13, 2013

In the wake of the death of a child who drowned this weekend, it is wonderful news to hear that someone is being proactive in teaching our children about water safety. It is essential for coastal children to know the basics of swimming. God forbid they find themselves in a compromising position while near a body of water if they can’t swim.

A 12-year-old was pulled from the water Sunday night near a Johns Island dock and could not be revived.

The youth was playing tag with two other children near the water and was reported missing. Divers found the youth’s body in the water at 8:24 p.m. Emergency workers could not revive him.

It has yet to be determined whether this was due to lack of swimming knowledge or simply an accident, but it is no secret that far too many children in the Lowcountry do not know how to swim.

Whether it be lack of direct water access, funds or parental encouragement - the fact remains that too many children lack the knowledge needed to play in or near any body of water.

But as usual, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) pro-actively partnered with other local agencies as part of a program that offers swim lessons to children throughout the Lowcountry. Through CCPRC’s Community Education partnership with the Charleston County School District (CCSD), the Community Services of Edisto, and the Lowcountry Aquatic Swimming Project (LAPS), CCPRC has committed to help enhance the health and welfare of area children through swimming.

CCPRC is providing these classes in a fun and safe environment, taught by certified swim instructors. The goal is to reach as many Lowcountry children as possible, to help them be able to safely and confidently enjoy the fun and healthy activity of swimming, as provided through the LAPS program.

CCPRC’s mission with the program is to bring swimming lessons to children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn crucial water safety skills. From May 6-17, students from Murray-LaSaine Elementary School, a business partner to CCPRC, were transported to Splash Zone Waterpark on James Island to undergo swimming lessons in the park’s pools. And, this summer lessons are literally being brought to school grounds with the use of a portable swimming pool owned by the agency.

A unique concept to many, the portable pool program is actually modeled after successful portable pool swim programs used for many years in Los Angeles and San Diego, Calif. The portable pool is constructed, used, broken down and then transported to a different location, where it is re-assembled again. The pool was made possible through donations and was built and installed by Steve Austin and Community Services of Edisto, with the assistance of Aqua Blue Pools and many volunteers. The portable pool will travel to three schools where participating children can learn to swim on site, in small groups throughout the day. Jane Edwards Elementary School on Edisto Island became the initial program site, reaching out to 120 children during the regular school year. Summer lessons at Schroeder Middle School (125 children) in Baptist Hill are in June, and Angel Oak Elementary School (100 students) on Johns Island are in July.

The main focus of the LAPS program is safety. Students wear a red, yellow or green band to identify their level of swimming skill, and class sizes are limited to no larger than six students per instructor. All students wear lifejackets until they have demonstrated the ability to independently swim 10 yards.

This swimming lesson program is the latest in efforts by CCPRC, CCSD and other area recreation agencies to promote water safety and the importance of learning to swim. In May 2010, the Swim Safe Lowcountry initiative was born as an awareness campaign to promote water safety. Swim Safe Lowcountry is supported through partnerships by CCPRC, CCSD, the American Red Cross, the City of Charleston Recreation Department, the Town of Mount Pleasant Recreation Department, the City of North Charleston Recreation Department, St. Andrews Parks and Playground, the Charleston Jewish Community Center, and most recently, Lowcountry Aquatic Project Swimming (LAPS).. For more information on Swim Safe Lowcountry, visit www.SwimSafeLowcountry.com.

For details on the portable pool swimming curriculum, visit www.swimlessonsuniversity.com. For more information on CCPRC visit www.ccprc.com.

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