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Temple ISD fourth graders learn life-saving lessons via free swim program

Posted: 6:16 PM, Oct 05, 2021
Updated: 2021-10-05 19:24:50-04

TEMPLE, Texas — Summer has officially come to a close, but with the Texas heat raging on and many of us surrounded by lakes and in-ground pools, the threat of drowning is never out of sight.

One local school district is going the extra mile to make sure its students are safe around water.

Most kids would take a day at the pool over time in class every time. At Temple High School's swim center, lifesaving lessons are still taking place through the district's free "Learn to Swim" program.

Over the course of two weeks, groups of fourth graders are taught a variety of water skills, from how to float to kicking with a kicking aid. But the main focus of the course is water safety.

“Just simple, basic things that sometimes we take for granted or things that might not seem so hard for some of us, but yet for them, it's a huge obstacle, and just teaching them to be a lot more comfortable and not so fearful of the water,” said Greg Spano, TISD aquatics coordinator and head swim coach at Temple High School.

Spano says the skills kids learn through this program can mean the difference between life and death.

“"Learn to Swim" is a vital skill," said Mary Spano, "Learn to Swim" coordinator. "Taking Learn to Swim lessons reduces the rate of drowning by 88%.”

CDC experts say drowning is a leading cause of death for children. Roughly 11 kids die from drowning per day across the country.

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For kids ages one to 14, it is also the second leading cause of unintentional injury.

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Though summer has come and gone, the threat of drowning is always a danger here in Texas.

“We live in an area where there are lakes all around," said Mary. "You know, people have pools in their backyards, they have pools in their apartment complexes. And every year in spring, you turn the TV on, you start hearing about somebody else who has drowned. So this is a great opportunity for us as coaches to give back to the community and teach these kids how to swim, give them an opportunity to learn some basic swim skills, to learn comfort and confidence in the water and to give them some basic out-of-the-water water safety skills.”

The program is cost-free and optional for Temple ISD students. With a combined 40 years of aquatic experience, the Spanos say safety is always the priority.

“We've got eyes on them constantly," said Greg. "And that's something that we tell the kids, we pinky promise them. We would never allow anything to happen to them. And so they're constantly being watched and safety is always number one priority.”

Not only do these children walk away with important life skills, they also gain a new level of confidence.

“The reward that we get from seeing them from day one, their fear of the water and going under the water to today where we had the last day of this first session and seeing how much improvement that they made, you can't put a dollar amount on that," said Greg. "I mean, that's so rewarding as coaches and instructors.”

This is the first year of the "Learn to Swim" program. The Spanos hope to continue to grow the program and eventually earn 100% participation across the district.