I was very excited about a new bill that was passed last year by the Minnesota State Legislation to conduct a feasibility study in order to make swimming instructions available in public school for children at an early age. Please refer to an earlier article – Yes, Add Swim Lessons to Public Elementary School Curriculum. As required by the legislation, the state education commissioner published a report in early February, 2016.
My earlier excitement was quickly dampened after reading the report. The report essentially brought forth various costs that would be incurred for adding swimming lesson in the school curriculum. In my humble opinion, focus should have been more on determining various avenues to cover these costs, rather cost avoidance.
The study workgroup included a wide range of representatives – Minnesota Department of Health and Education, teachers and school administrators, non-profit fitness and recreational organizations, public parks and recreation departments and other stakeholders with interest in swimming. Sadly, missing from this group were corporate leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.
As reported, for the state to mandate swimming instructions, it would require state-adopted learning outcomes that do not exist today for physical education, and swimming in particular. This would require for the state to establish and monitor the policies. Additionally, the state would need to set guidelines for schools and professional development plans both for schools and teachers.
As far as estimation of the cost is concerned, the report indicates over 200 school districts do not have access to any school-operated pool in the district. Setting up one pool per district would cost around $550M to construct plus on-going recurring costs. Even though the report made reference to collaborative effort with some non-profit organization (e.g., local YMCAs, YWCAs, local clubs, etc.), there was no suggestion of looking into corporate sponsorships.
The report indicates the need for personnel development in the areas of lifeguard and swimming instructions training and certifications, expertise in emergency procedures, CPR, ED, etc., and employment of maintenance staff. Do I hear an Employment Opportunity here?
The report, in conclusion, recommends:
- Incentivize school and community partnership – no specifics here?
- Include instructions on drowning prevention via land-based instruction – learning swimming without getting into water?
- Include outreach program to reach high-risk population – what about affordability and availability of pools and swim lessons?
I personally feel – the state legislators need to start engaging the entrepreneurs, innovators and corporate leaders; look into the various options of covering the cost, instead of avoiding the cost; consider other secondary benefits of incorporating swim lessons in the public school curriculum, e.g., employment, healthy students, etc.
As always, I am waiting to hear your opinions on this subject.