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Tempe school, recreation center team to provide free swim lessons

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A Tempe elementary school and recreation center are teaming up to give second-graders free lessons on how to be safe and smart around water.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brief released in 2014 shows that since 2005 unintentional drowning has replaced motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death from unintentional injury for boys ages 1 to 4.

“Eighty percent of our children live in a trailer park, and in their backyard they have a canal,” said Sylvia Lopez, a parent liaison at Aguilar Elementary School.

In 2013, there were a total of 41 water related deaths in Maricopa County alone, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“Just in Maricopa County there’s so many drowning deaths,” Lopez said.

After a survey revealed that more than half of its second-graders didn’t how to swim and had never had a lesson, Aguilar Elementary School teamed with Kiwanis Recreation Center to offer two hours of free lessons each.

“Water safety is one of the No. 1 issues in Arizona,” said Chris Cubbard, the Kiwanis Recreation Center pool manager.

Cubbard cautioned that teaching children how to swim is only one step to improving water safety. He said that unless parents start getting involved they won’t start taking on the responsibility of supervising their children while they swim.

However, he said teaching kids to be smart around water is the most important step.

“We are always making sure they’re asking before they get in, making sure they know those basic water safety rules,” Cubbard said. “No running, no playing alone.”

“These lessons help enable those kids to grasp those to make sure they and their friends are safe around water,” Cubbard said.

The lessons are funded through Chances for Children, an organization dedicated to improving quality of life by supporting partnerships and programs that provide access to sports, physical education and character education for youth.

Lopez said the improvement the children have shown since the first lesson is an indicator of their enthusiasm for the course.

“Oh the kids really seem to love it,” she said.