Story originally published in The Apple Leaf June 5, 2013.
Nearly two years after the drowning incident in the Wenatchee High School pool, the Wenatchee School District board of directors approved on May 14 a new program to bring swimming back into the PE curriculum.
New teaching structures will be in place, only freshman identified as “non-swimmers” will use the pool, and the program will begin as a pilot with the intent of expanding over the next few years.
When a student enters WHS as a freshman, they will be required to take a swimming test during PE class, perhaps within the first month of school, according to WHS aquatics coordinator John Pringle.
Pringle hopes that students will put aside their fear so that “they can be safe themselves and enjoy the water.”
Only students who don’t pass the swim test in September and are identified as “non-swimmers” will be allowed to partake in the swim unit, which would take place during the winter months. If a student is identified as a “non-swimmer” they will have the opportunity to take their swimming lessons outside of the WHS swimming unit in the community, perhaps at the YMCA. That’s the plan for the first year, at least.
Jodi Smith, the district’s assistant superintendent of learning and teaching, said that over time, Wenatchee middle school and elementary school students would be exposed to the program, meaning that the pilot high school program will expand.
“We want to make sure we are preparing our students to be successful around water,” Smith said. “We have a lot of water surrounding our environment in Wenatchee.”
In the proposal to the school board, Pringle estimated that the program would cost about $40,000 for the first year in use. However, looking into the future, Pringle said that his rough estimates indicate that if the program were going to be integrated into only one grade of middle school and one grade of elementary school, staffing and transportation costs could reach $100,000 per year.
The new teaching structure will require five staffers to be in the pool area when PE students are swimming; an aquatics coordinator, two lifeguards, and two paraeducators. Pringle said that it’s an “ongoing process” to determine who the aquatics coordinator for next year will be. Even though Pringle is the coordinator this year, the position for next year was opened up for additional applicants.
Paraeducators will have to apply for the position to assist in the pool. Lifeguards will still need to be hired, too. All of the to be hired pool staffers will need to have a lifeguard certification, but they will receive additional specialized training from Pringle.
None of the current PE teachers at WHS will be involved in the pool activities. Pringle said that was the preference of most of them, who compared it to teaching calculus when they only had an algebra endorsement.
The new program is on track to begin next school year and Pringle will continue to adjust the details of the proposal with district administration.
“I have a heart to make sure that students know how to swim,” said Pringle.