photo Courtesy Brooklyn Sports Club
Next school term New York City will begin teaching 2nd graders to swim. The lessons will occur during the school day for 10 weeks and take place at NYC Parks Department facilities in collaboration with the NYC Dept. of Education. The new requirement is among a package of water safety bills passed by the City Council earlier this month.
The package of bills includes a requirement for the Dept. of Parks and Recreation to survey NYC owned sites to determine suitable locations where additional swimming pools could be built. The bill also includesan annual report on City beach and pool staffing levels, occurrences of emergencies, and availability of pools for public use, as well as free swimming lessons for second graders.
The bills were prompted by a series of drownings that took place this past summer.
In May, two NYC boys were found lifeless in waterways on opposite sides of Manhattan, one was determined to be an accidental drowning by the Medical Examiner. In July 2023, a 14-year-old drowned at Beach 73rd and Rockaway Beach. Later in the month there was a drowning at Coney Island. A day later, a 19-year-old drowned at Jacob Riis Park Beach. And in August a 27-year-old man was found in Newtown Creek.
East New York residents seem to approve of the City’s plan to teach second graders to swim.
Alexa, 8th grade
“It’s a good idea because anything could happen. If you are at the pool and somehow your child is unattended, they would know the steps to not drown. Someone taught me how to swim. I was about 8 or 9.”
Dina, 8th grade
“I already know how to swim. I learned on my own. All my cousins learned how to swim on their own, too. I like to be in the pool. My aunt’s house has a 12′ pool with a diving board. I was scared at first, even though I knew how to swim.”
Jade, 7th grade
“It’s a good idea to make sure they don’t drown or try to hurt anybody else.”
“It is good to teach second graders how to swim because if you are at the beach and a wave hits you, you need to be prepared. Also, if you are at a pool party you need to know how to swim.”
Marie, Jaden’s mom
“It’s a great idea. It’s teaching them a skill they can use in the future. God forbid something happens they would be able to hold their own. It would also prepare them to be trained as lifeguards.”
“I think a lot of Black and Brown people missed the opportunity to learn how to swim. It’s a great idea. It would help save lives.”
“I think it is a good idea. In case of emergency, they would be able to save themselves from drowning.”
Andy, 7th grade
“I think it’s a pretty nice law. It could be used to help some people who don’t know how to swim. Later in life if they want to go for a career in lifeguarding at a pool, they will have prior knowledge and they could go to school and pass easily. I don’t know how to swim that much. If I had the education, I could save myself from drowning.”
“I think it is good, so they don’t drown. I learned how to swim. My mom taught me.”
Laniah, 4th grade
“I want to learn how to swim because it is fun.”
Tracy, Laniah’s grandmother
“It’s a good thing. All kids should learn how to swim.”
Brooklyn Sports Club and Thomas Jefferson Educational Campus in East New York, as well as Betsy Head Pool in Brownsville have aquatic facilities that focus on exposing young people to much needed swimming skills.
According to the New York State Department of Health Bathing Facility Incident Databases, the average annual rates of drowning at regulated facilities from 2011-2020 is 27 at swimming pools and 21 at bathing beaches. There is a much higher average drowning rate at beaches than pools, possibly due to a greater number of bathers, water clarity, currents (including rip tides), depths and bottom conditions. State Park facilities have a higher proportion of drownings in part due to the extremely high actual numbers of bathers. More drownings occur during summer months when outdoor facilities are open. A considerable number of drownings occur in the afternoon and when the water is less than 5ft. deep. Males are 4 times more likely to be drowning victims than females. At regulated bathing facilities most, drowning victims are between 6 and 25 years old. Black males and females have a significantly higher drowning rate than white and Hispanic males and females.
NYS has created a Commission to Prevent Childhood Drownings.
There is a national lifeguard shortage, which is particularly acute in New York City. Drowning is the Number 1 killer of young children who can become victims in a few inches of water.
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