Grade 4 École New Era School student Annie Tan had her first swimming lesson yesterday at Brandon’s Sportsplex pool.
Tan is among close to 90 New Era students registered for a free 12-week swimming program organized and funded by the Brandon Teachers’ Association.
As part of a local promotion to give back to the community while educating students, BTA is covering all of the transportation and swimming costs.
New Era was chosen for the program by the Canadian Red Cross Society and Sportsplex staff based on the school’s high population of EAL and aboriginal students with limited access to community swim programs.
When asked how her first swimming lesson was going, Tan said "it’s a lot of fun."
Although she’s swam two or three times before, she said she’s never had proper lessons.
With the help of Sportsplex swim instruction staff, students will learn how to improve their water safety and swimming skills over the course of the program that kicked off Tuesday morning.
BTA president Alison Johnston said the free program gives students that wouldn’t otherwise have access to lessons an opportunity to obtain safe swimming skills.
"It’s a terrific life skill and when you look at the faces when they’re in the pool everybody’s having a terrific time," Johnston said. "Ways that we can give back to the community are terrific."
The Sportsplex has also agreed to waive any user fees, which has helped cut costs and give more students an opportunity to swim, Johnston said.
BTA has partnered with the Sportsplex in the past to provide free public swim days, but this is the first time it is offering free swimming lessons.
School swimming lessons also provide some revenue for the facility. In the fall of 2012, four school groups generated $9,509 in revenue and in the fall of 2013, five school groups generated $10,737.55 in revenue.
New Era principal Chad Cobbe said the free swimming lessons are a great opportunity for the school’s aboriginal and EAL students.
"There are other schools in the division that would benefit from this too, very much so, but we’ll definitely take the opportunity," he said. "We have a range of language levels among our EAL students, but as a school we’re used to it, as a community we help each other."
BTA public relations co-chair Lauren Wooley said providing the 12-week program free of charge costs around $3,000, which is provided through BTA union dues and funding through the Manitoba Teachers’ Society. The association hopes to secure enough funds to open up to other local schools in the future, she added.
"This is our big project this year for the community program," Wooley said. "We are trying to open up this program to a few other schools as well ... it’s all a matter of having the proper funding."