Swim program may return for K-1

"Kindergarteners and first graders could get swim lessons during morning and afternoon hours and vacations, under a reinstated school district program.Those grades were identified in a draft proposal made to the school board last week, with a formal presentation possibly coming next month. The program could be reinstated for the 2001-02 school year.The school board eliminated the swim program over the summer, citing a budget shortfall and the need to reserve the school day for academics. The board proposed supplanting the program with a voucher system offering free swim lessons after school. When a number of parents complained, the board set up a swim committee to explore other options. The committee, represented by district business director Michael Schroeder and Ordway Principal Bruce Colley, discussed options with the school board Thursday. Among the recommendation are skill assessments to identify weak swimmers. They further advised changing the elementary classes participating in swim from first, third and fifth to K-1. Schroeder cited concern that swimming progress made one year was lost in the following non-swimming year. Blocks of time outside the school day when swim lessons could be held might include winter and spring breaks and the elementary conference week. The committee suggested compressing what had been a 25-minute, two-week swim class into a 45-minute, one-week class. Benefits would include less loss of instructional time and lower transportation costs. The committee, Colley said, suggested kindergarten swim be held in the afternoon for children with morning school, and in the morning for afternoon school attendees. Schroeder acknowledged that the staggered kindergarten class involved some problematic down time for swimming instructors between the morning and afternoon classes, however. Board member Cheryl Dale expressed concern about reinstating the swim program at all, in the light of the district's current budget crunch. By opening that financial door to a swim program, she said, what message are we sending to teachers who don't have instructional materials?Dale said she supports the swim program in principle and is concerned with preserving the upcoming baseline budget process, which will strip the district to essentials before adding programs back in. Newly-elected school board president Ken Brieland also wondered aloud whether swim would fall within the baseline.Rowley reminded the board that the impact on instructional time had been the factor driving the original decision to eliminate the program, not cost. These are not going to be massive dollars, Rowley said. "

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