All Richmond County second-graders will be offered free swim lessons during school hours beginning in January through the Family Y of Greater Augusta’s Splash program.
Splash is designed to prevent drownings by teaching water safety and swimming skills to children who otherwise might not receive formal lessons, according to Family Y President and CEO Danny McConnell.
Pupils will be taken out of class for about two hours a day for five consecutive days for the one-hour class and time for preparation and transportation.
The Richmond County Board of Education approved the program Tuesday by a 6-2 vote. Board Vice President Venus Cain and member Helen Minchew voted against the program. Jimmy Atkins abstained because he is on the Family Y’s board of directors. Member Jack Padgett Jr. was absent.
Dissenters said the school system cannot afford to remove students from instructional time, while others said the benefits are worth the costs.
“From my perspective, I think if we can teach these kids how to swim and they know that lesson for the rest of their lives, it grossly overshadows 10 hours of reading instruction in the second grade,” said board member Frank Dolan. “You can catch up.”
While considering the issue, board member Barbara Pulliam said she polled about 28 educators who have more than 20 years of experience to ask their opinion on removing children from class for swim lessons.
Of the 28 polled, Pulliam said all but three supported the idea, especially because teachers can schedule critical reading and math instruction around the swim classes.
McConnell said all schools will be given the option to participate, and they will be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Family Y will provide transportation to the facilities, and the $50,000 program will be covered by sponsors. He said last week that volunteers will provide swimsuits for families who cannot afford them.