With swimming lessons interrupted by COVID-19, safety advocates advise caution this summer

·1 min read
Children in Ontario first get swimming lessons in Grade 3, but many kids missed out when the pandemic shut down schools last year and forced thousands of students into remote learning. (The Associated Press - image credit)
Children in Ontario first get swimming lessons in Grade 3, but many kids missed out when the pandemic shut down schools last year and forced thousands of students into remote learning. (The Associated Press - image credit)

As another pandemic summer approaches, safety advocates say they're worried about how children who were deprived of swimming lessons due to COVID-19 restrictions will fare.

According to preliminary data from the Lifesaving Society, drownings were up 13 per cent for all ages in Ontario last summer.

"We may see, down the road, more drownings because some kids haven't had the lessons," says Barbara Byers, public education director with the cociety.

In Ontario, students in Grade 3 are taught to swim as part of their physical education curriculum — but Byers worries it's been on hold for too long.

"By next fall, there are two years of kids in Grade 3 that didn't have any instruction," she told CBC Toronto.

Eric Shendelman, the owner of a swim school and the past president of the Ontario Camps Association, agrees with her concerns.

Eric Shendelman owns a swim school and is the former president of the Ontario Camps Association.
Eric Shendelman owns a swim school and is the former president of the Ontario Camps Association. (CBC)

"I'm really concerned about safety and drownings that could occur," he said. "I hope we can get back into the pool soon."

Shendelman advises having a system in place when spending time near a lake or pool with children.

"Someone has to be designated, they have to have not drunk alcohol, they have to have their eyes on the kids, and have to be within arms reach," he said.

Safety advocates also advise putting life jackets on young children and controlling and restricting their access to the water.

And, if you need to rescue them, do what lifeguards do and bring along a piece of lifesaving equipment, such as a life jacket. .

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