Demand for swimming lessons in Cincinnati increases due to pandemic

School is out, but some authorities say there are still important skills for young people to learn during the summer holidays.

Like how to swim.

About 1,000 children drown each year in the United States, said Dawne Gardner, injury prevention specialist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Another 7,000 end up in the emergency room because of near-drowning.

Data from the hospital’s trauma registry shows there were 148 incidents of drowning and near-drowning in Greater Cincinnati from January 2016 through March 2022, Gardner said.

The total includes 14 in 2021 and four in March this year.

The fact that bodies of water can be deadly — and not just for children — was brought home over Memorial Day weekend.

A 31-year-old Pennsylvania man died while jet skiing at Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville on Sunday, although his cause of death has not been released.

A 16-year-old boy from Florence is believed to have drowned Monday at East Fork State Park in Clermont County.

After:Lifeguard jobs not filled; Cincinnati will offer a $750 bonus so more pools can open

“Swimming lessons teach children safe habits in and around water while providing instruction to become stronger, safer swimmers,” Gardner said.

“Swimming lessons are also a fun way to help kids stay active while building confidence and respect for the water.”

The pandemic has intensified the need for swimming lessons

“Due to the pandemic, many children have not had regular swimming lessons for almost two years, putting them at increased risk,” said Richard Simtob. He is co-owner of a new Goldfish swimming school for children which will open next year on Pine Road in Kenwood.

Simtob, a businessman from West Bloomfield, Michigan, also co-owns other Goldfish Swim Schools franchises for children ages 4 months to 12 years in Anderson and West Chester Townships.

“As we prepare for beach and pool season, it’s critical that all children have the opportunity to practice the skills that will keep them safe in and around the water,” Simtob said.

While recreation centers and YMCAs remain familiar places to learn to swim, Simtob schools are just a few of the private venues popping up in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

A breakdown of youth drowning statistics suggests that all are necessary.

  • Youth drownings dropped 38% between 1999 and 2019, according to the National Vital Statistics System.
  • But it also indicates that drowning remains the leading cause of death from accidental injury in children aged 1 to 4 and the second (behind road accidents) in children from birth to 17 years old.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drowning deaths among 5- to 9-year-olds rose from 134 in 2019 to 117 in 2020 and from 106 in 2019 to 91 in 2020 among 10- to 14-year-olds.
  • On the other hand, it indicates that drowning deaths among children aged 1 to 4 years have increased from 382 in 2019 to 425 in 2020.
Cincinnati is offering lifeguards hiring bonuses of up to $2,000 due to a shortage of guards.

Shortages of lifeguards and pool chemicals mean less access to classes

Some children who take swimming lessons cannot practice their skills because they do not have access to swimming pools.

One of the reasons is that fewer pools are open. A national and local shortage of lifeguards means it’s increasingly difficult for pools to find youngsters willing to sweep the water with a whistle around their neck.

After:Private swim school in Kenwood offered

Some reasons for the shortage include fear of catching COVID-19, an increase in family vacations interrupted by the pandemic, and the availability of better paying jobs.

Cincinnati, for example, only has enough lifeguards to open eight of its 23 public pools.

These Cincinnati public pools will open by June 6:

  • Dunham Otto Armleder Pool in Westwood.
  • Hirsch Otto Armleder Pool in Avondale.
  • Dempsey Pool at East Price Hill.
  • Evanston Pool.
  • Lincoln Pool in the West End.
  • McKie Pool in Northside.
  • Oakley Pool.
  • Pleasant Ridge Pool.

The city council agreed in May that the Cincinnati Recreation Commission could offer lifeguard bonuses of $750, or more if it didn’t bring in the 127 additional lifeguards it needed to meet its goal of 214.

Since then, only four other lifeguards have signed up. Now the recreation commission is offering bonuses of up to $2,000 and hopes the training courses it sponsors will attract more lifeguards.

If it gets enough lifeguards, the commission will open additional pools in the far east and far west neighborhoods of the city.

Another difficulty in this year’s swim season is that supply chain issues stemming from COVID-19-related labor shortages and transportation delays have contributed to a national chlorine shortage.

“Unwavering and universal demand” for swimming lessons”

Pandemic or not, “There is an unwavering universal demand for swimming lessons as they have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of drowning by 88%,” Simtob said.

“We hope that with more learn-to-swim providers, we will be able to combat the staggering statistics and provide more children with this vital skill.”