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SPS, Willamalane Partnership: 60 Years of Free Fourth Grade Swim Lessons

SPS, Willamalane Partnership: 60 Years of Free Fourth Grade Swim Lessons
Allison McGowan

Willamalane and Springfield Public Schools (SPS) are celebrating a 60-year partnership to bring free swim lessons to all SPS elementary schools. Six decades ago, Willamalane began its fourth-grade swim lesson program, a groundbreaking partnership with Springfield Public Schools. Since then, this program has been a beacon of water safety education for the community, serving more than 50,000 students.  

Through this program, all fourth-grade students can participate in swim lessons as part of the regular curriculum at all SPS elementary schools. The program also includes bus transportation to and from the lessons, removing another barrier for children to access the instruction. Fourth-grade swim lessons are free and held at Willamalane Park Swim Center or Splash! at Lively Park. 

Fourth grade is a pivotal time in a child's life, marking the age at which they develop greater independence and self-awareness. By offering these lessons as a core part of their curriculum, Willamalane and SPS can ensure that every student in the district can acquire these life-saving skills. For some students, this may be their only chance to participate in swim lessons, as this opportunity eliminates time, cost, and transportation barriers for families.  

“As we celebrate 60 years of empowering our fourth-grade students with vital water safety skills, we see a future where every child in our district can conquer their fears and embrace the joy of swimming,” said Greg James, Willamalane Board Vice President. “Together, we're making waves of change and saving lives."

In Springfield, nestled between two rivers, water safety is not just a nicety; it's an imperative. These young swimmers, often surrounded by the serene waters of the Willamette and McKenzie rivers, need to be well-versed in the art of water safety. 

Back in the 1960s, Willamalane and SPS recognized the need for a program that would not only nurture the physical well-being of fourth-grade students but also equip them with essential water safety knowledge. Today, this fourth-grade swim lesson program is still an integral part of the curriculum in all SPS elementary schools. The fourth-grade swim lessons teach the basics of swimming, such as breath control, floats, kicks, and strokes.

This program also covers critical river safety knowledge. Under the guidance of dedicated instructors, students have the unique opportunity to practice water safety by simulating recovery techniques from rafts and kayaks. This hands-on experience ensures that young students are not only confident swimmers but also well-prepared to navigate the waters of Springfield's picturesque surroundings.