A preliminary meeting with school officials and others has been held by the Evanston 150 committee charged with addressing the goal of teaching all Evanston kids how to swim.

One of the 10 Big Ideas of the Evanston 150 process was called “Water, Water Everywhere” and it included the goal on swimming. Pam James, an Evanston 150 spokesman, confirmed the announcement made last week at the District 65 school board meeting by Superintendent Hardy Murphy that he had met with the citizens group for a preliminary discussion.

James said the group plans to survey the present kindergarten class to determine how many already know how to swim. Then they plan to designate one school for a pilot project.

Early thinking, she said, was that kids would be bused from their school to a participating swimming pool, possibly at the YMCA or YWCA, on days that school is scheduled for a half day due to teacher training. There are seven such days a year, spaced about a month apart, she said.

The committee has not yet addressed the issue of costs for the program, she said, although it recognizes that public money is unlikely to be available.  She said the committee plans to explore possible funding sources, such as grants from private foundations and the extensive use of volunteers to hold costs to a minimum.

“The cost of transportation is a major issue,” she said.

In addition to pools at the two “Y’s, there are also pools at Evanston Township High School and at Northwestern University, James noted, and she indicated that all parties have expressed support for the program and a willingness to help.

Evanston 150 is a citizens group that was formed last year to identify and implement ideas for significantly improving the quality of life of Evanston residents in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Evanston, to be celebrated in 2013. The group solicited more than 2100 ideas from Evanston residents, which were culled down to the final 10, announced last fall.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Some thoughts about swimming

    1. "There are seven such days a year, spaced about a month apart, she said." 

    Conducting swimming lessons one time a month is no way to teach kids how to properly swim. Twice a week over an extended period of time makes much more sense, or over a two-week period when the students swim two or three days in a row each week.

    2. "…and the extensive use of volunteers to hold costs to a minimum."

    Depending on the size of the group, you are going to need A LOT of volunteers (with swim teaching and water safety training) who can be available during the work or school day. And who are willing to get in the water with the kids, not just sit on the side of the pool and watch them.

    3. What is Pam James' background and experience in swimming and swimming instruction? Based on my reading here. I tend to think she does not understand (or greatly underestimates) the work required to make youngsters into capable swimmers. Plus, the pools she mentions…those at the the YMCA and YMCA, already struggle to provide enough pool access to their paying members during the daytime hours. The pool at NU is also heavily scheduled, and is too cold (kept that way for its highly competitive swimmers) for truly comfortable and effective child swimming instruction.

  2. All are invited to be part of the Evanston150 Process

    The big goal of Evanston150 has been to build collaboration to address the things we’d like to improve in our community for the benefit of all, and this is an example of how—when you break a big idea down into component parts—it begins to feel like something that the community can accomplish.

    Teaching every child to swim is one component of the big idea Water, Water, Everywhere.   It's exciting to see that the Water, Water Everywhere project team has succeeded in bringing District 65, the YMCA, the YWCA, ETHS and Northwestern University to the table to participate in realizing this project.

    Community members serving on the teams don't need to be an expert in all aspects of a project – they just need to be willing to share the skills and knowledge they do have, and encourage others who have the skills the project requires to get involved.

    Everyone in the community is encouraged to be part of this process, by joining a team and volunteering as they can. Group contacts for the 10 Project Teams and upcoming meetings can be found at http://www.evanston150.org.

    Stephanie Kulke

    Evanston150 Project Director

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