Tupelo schools to teach course on swimming

TUPELO – Add flip turns and treading water to the things you can learn in elementary school.
Beginning in September, Tupelo will teach swimming lessons to second-grade students at all five of its K-2 schools.
The lessons were approved at last week’s school board meeting. They will use a curriculum developed by the Tupelo Department of Parks and Recreation to teach both beginners and advanced students safety tips and other water skills.
“The number one goal is safety,” Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell said. “In Mississippi, we have a lot of grown-ups who never learned to swim, and we want to make sure every student can learn that safety quickly.
“It also has health and fitness benefits. Swimming is one of the best exercises anyone can do, and it is a skill they can learn now and have for a lifetime.”
Students will need parental permission to participate.
Each school will have two weeks for the lessons at the city pool near Joyner Elementary. Students will attend the class on Monday to Thursday for a total of eight lessons.
Lessons will be given during time normally spent on special courses, such as physical education, art and music.
The exercises will be staffed by Parks and Recreation employees, plus P.E. teachers. Two classes, about 30-35 students, will be in the pool at a time.
Joyner Elementary had a pilot swimming program for its second-graders this past year.
“They think of swimming as just being for fun, but they also learn the exercise benefits of it,” Joyner P.E. teacher Glenda Clay said. “I think P.E. and other recreational activities in schools are moving toward lifetime activities.”
Joyner Principal Jason Harris said several sick students wanted to show up at school just to swim.
“The thing is to be able to give these kids an opportunity they may not otherwise be able to get,” Harris said.
The district will have swimsuits available for students who don’t own one.
Ezell said she hopes that a swimming unit for third-grade students can be added for the 2011-12 school year.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal