Free swim lessons available in hopes of decreasing drownings this summer

WORCESTER, Mass. — Even when the swim lessons were over, 4-year-old Mabel Johnson tried several times to jump back in the pool.

To her, this is “playtime,” she said.

However, it only takes seconds for playtime to turn into a police investigation after a drowning.

“That’s my biggest fear,” said Kristina Johnson, of Hubbardston, who signed her 4- and 7-year-olds up for swim lessons.

She says spending hundreds every month was not sustainable.

“As important as it was, we couldn’t do it,” said Johnson. “It was an expense we did not have. So it was really nice when we got the phone call.”

That phone call, from the British Swim School of Worcester. It is now offering free lessons paid for by a state initiative called Swim Safe Massachusetts.

They have locations in Paxton, Worcester, and Westborough.

The goal in the beginners class is for parents to eventually get their kids so comfortable being in the water that they don’t have to be in the water with the kids anymore. They can just sit by the pool with their feet in the water as a kid starts to gain independence.

“It’s really rewarding to watch them go from a stage where they are a little bit hesitant or potentially fearful of the water to be able to achieve those goals in the water,” said Melissa Boucher, of British Swim School.

“We went to a pool yesterday and it was great to watch,” said Johnson. “She knew what to do if she got tired. She could float on her back and she knew to keep swimming to get to safety on the side. It’s been amazing.”

According to the National Institutes for Health, drowning is the number one accidental killer of children ages 1 to 4.

However, the free lessons are for people of all ages because as we saw on Memorial Day, drownings can happen to anyone.

A 4-year-old drowned in Brookline, an adult drowned in Falmouth, and a 16-year-old in Worcester is still fighting for his life.

The funding is set to expire at the end of June; however, the British Swim School of Worcester says they are hoping to get an extension.

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