The donor-funded program aimed at teaching Evanston second-graders how to swim plans to add five more schools next year to the three in this year’s pilot effort and to utilize two more swimming pools.

The program represents the outcome of one of the 10 goals set by a communitywide group to celebrate the 150th anniversary this year of Evanston’s founding. The goal of the group, Evanston 150, was to teach all Evanston kids how to swim.

Pam James, the volunteer leader of the effort, reported on its progress to the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board Monday night. The district was one of the key partners in the program.

Other principal partners included the McGaw YMCA and the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, which offered its swimming pools, and the Evanston Community Foundation, which set up a fund to pay expenses.

The pilot program this year involved second-graders from Oakton, Washington, and Dawes elementary schools.  The program next year will be expanded to include students from Lincolnwood, Lincoln, and Walker elementary schools and the King Lab and Bessie Rhodes magnet schools, James said.

The long-range plan, she added, is to include all district schools in 2014/2015 and beyond.

Some 124, or 58 percent, of the eligible students at the three pilot schools participated in the initial effort, which took advantage of volunteer instructors at the YMCA and YWCA pools, James said.

Next year there will be an estimated 530 eligible second-graders that will utilize the two additional pools at two Evanston-based retirement communities–Presbyterian Homes and Three Crowns Park–James told the board.

As it turns out, the program takes advantage of the district’s seven early-dismissal days—approximately one each month—when schools close early to accommodate professional development meetings for the teachers.

Students are bused to the pools for their swimming lessons, although next year, Lincolnwood students will walk across the street at McDaniel Avenue to the Three Crowns Park.

James emphasized that the program “is totally funded by donations of goods and services” from individuals and the partnering organizations.

Before the program was implemented, James said, a telephone survey of parents indicated that some 53 percent of the area’s second-graders could not swim at all, and an additional 30 percent had limited swimming ability. Only 17 percent were regarded as proficient swimmers, she said.

Top: District second-graders take initial swimming lessons at McGaw YMCA pool.

Earlier story:

Kids take the plunge in swimming initiative

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. Funding

    The 2012/2013 pilot program with 3 schools was made possible by donations of services and facilities by the McGaw YMCA, YWCA Evanston/North Shore, School District 65, and numerous volunteers.  In order to expand the program next year and continue to offer it in future years, we are in need of funding.  The Evanston Community Foundation has set up a fund to receive donations on behalf of Evanston Swims!, the program title. Anyone interested can go to evanstonforever.org for instructions on how to donate.

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