Teal tote bags in hand, dozens of second graders quickly filled the Henley Aquatic Center at Bridger Middle School with excited chatter, which didn't die down after they changed into swimsuits and jumped into the pool.
It's one of the first session of swimming lessons offered in partnership between Independence Schools and the Blue Springs YMCA. These students, and all others across the district whose families signed them up, will return for six free weekly lessons in all.
Children are bused to and from their home school, and if needed they're provided with a swimsuit. They're also given the tote bags for their suit and towel. The YMCA provides the instructors, nearly all of them high school seniors or college-age, who help give the children a basic knowledge of swimming skills and water safety.
This is the sixth year in partnership with the Blue Springs YMCA, though the program started in 2012 with the Independence YMCA.
“When that Y closed (in 2013), Blue Springs YMCA picked it up; they realized the importance of this,” Erica Smith, assistant director of youth development for Independence Schools. “We have a lot of kids who've never been in a swimming pool before.”
This year, about 260 children will receive the basic half-hour lessons. Over the duration of the program, about 3,000 have received lessons.
The first session, from January to March, will have students from Mallinson, Santa Fe, Korte, William Southern, Three Trails, Procter, Fairmount, Mill Creek and Luff elementaries. The second session, from March to May, includes students from Blackburn, Little Blue, Randall, Sycamore Hills, Benton, Glendale, Bryant, Spring Branch and Ott elementaries.
Adrienne Lindstrom from Mallinson said she was “excited at first; now, I'm nervous,” because of the all the new faces she's seeing at lessons.
What is she most excited about coming to the pool?
“My friend, she's in third grade, and she said she got to jump off the diving board,” Linstrom said.
Aiden Rogers, also from Mallinson, had agreed to talk with a reporter but then needed a little convincing to get out of the pool, saying he was “training.”
“I'm excited to learn how to swim,” he said. “I've been in the pool at Oceans of Fun.”
After just a couple questions, each asked if they could get back into the pool.
“This is something we're passionate about, and they're just as excited to learn,” said Dawn Adams-Decker, who inherited the program when she joined the Blue Springs YMCA as aquatics director in November.
“Sometimes it's the only exposure to safety and water that they'll get. They'll learn how to submerge, how to swim-float-swim, how to turn and grab and push off the side.”
And then, to end the lesson, one last jump in for a splash.