Learning to Swim is Essential

Learning to swim is a life-or-death skill, essential for every child.  Formal swim lessons between ages 1 and 4 can help reduce the risk of drowning by 88% according to a study conducted in 2015.[1] Drowning is the number one cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 4 and a leading cause for young people up to 14 years of age.[2]  A young child can drown in less than 2 inches of water.[3]

The risk of drowning is a public health risk and childhood established swimming skills are one of the integral drowning prevention strategies identified by national drowning prevention communities and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that ALL children learn to swim as early as age 1. [4] Removing access to water safety and swimming lessons inherently puts children more at risk of drowning.

Furthermore, private indoor swim school businesses that are operating are doing so without a single outbreak of COVID (or any other respiratory pathogen).[5] According to the CDC, a properly maintained swimming pool should inactivate the virus.[6] Indoor swimming pools are required to have a very high ventilation rate to assist in removing the byproducts of the chlorine that is added to the pool water, which means an indoor pool area will have the highest air turn-over and most fresh air of any other space within that building. Additionally reducing air velocity is important in indoor pools to reduce evaporation, however it turns out that reducing air velocity also helps minimize the spread of airborne pathogens.

USSSA member swim schools are following the USSSA COVID Action Plan based on CDC guidelines to even further reduce the risk of COVID transmission while attending lessons at a swim school and working to create the safest environment possible.

This infographic (with photo pre-COVID) explains the facts of drowning and the benefits of learning to swim. Learning to swim is a lifesaving skill, essential to the health and development of children.

   

 

[1] Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood, A Case-Control Study: Ruth Brenner, et al., 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151293/

[2] https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/campaigns/drowning-prevention/Pages/default.aspx

[3] https://downloads.aap.org/DOPA/Drowning-Prevention/is_your_baby_crawling_english.pdf

[4] https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Updated-Recommendations-to-Prevent-Drowning-in-Children.aspx

[5] https://www.usswimschools.org/2020/07/early-data-shows-swim-school-safety-precautions-working/

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html

Let’s Talk Air & What Makes Learning to Swim a Great Low Risk Activity Choice

We’ve established that viruses such as COVID-19 are not shown to be transmitted in properly maintained pool water.[1] So let’s talk about the air surrounding the pool. Many learn to swim programs are conducted indoors allowing for year-round instruction to build and maintain skills. After talking with industry experts we’ve uncovered some interesting information on ways ventilation for indoor pools is far superior at minimizing virus transmission than most indoor spaces.

Keith Coursin is the President of Desert Aire. He has served on several ventilation committees including the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code Committee. He shared that mechanical engineers use the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2020 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality to determine how much ventilation air the dehumidification equipment must be designed for an indoor pool. When looking at the standard, indoor swimming pools are required to have a very high ventilation rate. It’s been designed this way to help remove byproducts of the chlorine used to maintain the pool water. Keith shared this comparison of the ventilation rate:

Indoor pool ventilation is:

  • 8 times more than an office space
  • 4 times more than an elementary classroom
  • 2.6 times more than a science laboratory

Keith said, “in fact, there is no other building type listed in the standard that comes close to the required ventilation rate of an indoor pool.” So what does all this mean? The air you find at an indoor pool is better ventilated than many other indoor spaces you will be in.

In this great video below, the aquatics engineering experts at Counsilman Hunsaker share that for years, designers have been exploring ways to increase air turnover, minimize air velocity and introduce fresh air to handle the air requirements to maintain indoor pools. They confirm, as Keith stated, that the indoor pool area will have the highest air turn-over and most fresh air of any other space within that building. Additionally reducing air velocity is important in indoor pools to reduce evaporation, however it turns out that reducing air velocity also helps minimize the spread of airborne pathogens. Research has also shown that relative humidity between 40-60% is ideal to create a healthy indoor space and minimize the spread of airborne viruses.[2] Indoor pools are designed with HVAC systems to maintain proper humidity levels.

Proper health protocols that swim schools have in place are still an important way to help prevent the spread of viruses. That said, it’s great to learn that these environments, by their design, have the ability to minimize the spread of airborne viruses. If you are looking for an activity to get your kids out of the house for some exercise and social interaction, learning to swim can be a great lower risk choice. Your child will also be learning a lifesaving skill making it a win-win all around! We hope to see you at the pool soon!

 

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/parks-rec/aquatic-venues.html

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200820102503.htm; https://www.sylvane.com/blog/higher-indoor-humidity-prevents-flu/

Benefits for Young Children Learning to Swim Goes Beyond Swim Skills

Learning to swim is not only a lifesaving skill but one with some additional benefits. According to a 2009 study conducted by Robyn Jorgensen current at University of Canberra, children under the age of five who participate in swim lessons achieve a wide range of skills earlier than the normal population.

While some skills you would expect to see increase with swim lessons, such as better balance and coordination, children in swim lessons also showed social and cognitive development as much as 15 months ahead of the normal population.

Young swimmers in the study were found to understand direction better, which helps them be better prepared to respond to teachers as they move into the classroom. They were also more comfortable interacting with their peers, as well as adults who were not their caregivers.

Learning to swim at a young age can also help children develop deeper usage of language. They are exposed to important speech elements and useful concepts like shapes and colors. As they continue to work in swim lessons with new words, it can improve their own use of language.

The increased cognitive development found in young swimmers are the building blocks for skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic, setting the stage for lifelong learning.

And if being smarter and better prepared for the school years was not a great enough benefit, swimming is also good for the health and development of a growing body. Swimming uses all parts of the body for development of gross motor skills. And we can’t forget to share with parents one of the best benefits swimming can offer, improved quality of sleep. Yes, learning to swim is both fun and a great way to help tire out those little ones by burning off some energy.

Swimming lessons are a great choice for young children to teach them a lifesaving skill as well as set the stage for lifelong learning.

Early Data Shows Swim School Safety Precautions Working

The United States Swim School Association recently surveyed members to get a picture of how many students are currently in lessons and what health and safety precautions have been put in place. The results so far have been positive and could point to swim schools being a safer child activity option.

Based on our recent survey of our swim school membership, 38,398 students have been swimming weekly for an average of 4 weeks. Those schools have had 1,959 staff currently working. While there have been 43 cases of COVID-19 positive exposures within swim school facilities, NOT ONE case has been traced back to a swim school.

We are finding that while students or staff may contract COVID-19 outside of the school, from family members or attending a party with friends, they are not found to be passing it along to those they have come in contact with while at the swim school before they knew they were positive. It would seem the health and safety precautions swim schools have put in place have been working.

Here is what we know from our members about actions they are taking.

Swim Lesson Styles Currently Being Offered
Many schools are offering more private swim lessons.

  • private | 88.24%
  • parent and baby lessons | 56.86%
  • semi-private to kids in same family | 48.04%
  • group with 3 – 4 students | 46.08%
  • semi-private with 2 students | 41.18%
  • camp style lessons meeting more than once a week | 11.76%
  • group lesson larger than 4 students | 5.88%
  • group lessons with parent in water (even for older students) | 5.88%

Type of Facilities Being Used for Swim Lessons Currently
Many of our members operate in indoor facilities. Members’ professional, year-round water safety instructional programs are housed in unique environments with the highest quality AIR/HVAC systems. Indoor swimming pools need a higher level of circulation to protect the buildings they exist in. Pools that are dedicated to instruction (and training) have superb ventilation systems by necessity. If they didn’t, then the building the pools are housed in would be eaten up by the humidity. Most pools turn over the air in a few hours, minimally, and a lot of pools can introduce up to 100% fresh air into the pool room by adjusting HVAC set points, drastically cutting down on the air turnover time. The air quality in an indoor pool can be significantly better than the air quality of a supermarket.

  • indoor, you own or lease the pool and it’s used only for swim lessons | 52.38%
  • outdoor, you own or lease pool and it’s used only for swim lessons | 26.67%
  • indoor, you lease or rent pool water and pool has other uses | 18.10%
  • outdoor, you lease or rent pool water and pool has other uses | 13.33%
  • outdoor, you travel to backyard or community type pools to offer swim lessons | 13.33%
  • other | 4.76%

Current Health and Safety Precautions Being Used by Swim Schools
The swim school business is all about safety. Providing safety instruction in a carefully managed and safe environment is all they do, and even outside of COVID-19, they do everything and anything they possibly can to keep the children in their care safe. They are stewards of safety; it is in our DNA and a key value of this association. Thus many swim schools have gone above and beyond CDC, state and local guidance. Please note as you review this list that facilities and areas of the country are experiencing different levels of risk. Not all precautions listed will work for all swim school communities.

  • come in and leave in swimsuit | 83.96%
  • all staff on deck, lobby, office wear cloth masks | 82.08%
  • staff temperature checks at start of shift | 81.13%
  • all customers wear cloth masks in building | 77.36%
  • all staff wear face shields in water | 72.64%
  • less classes in the pool at one time | 71.70%
  • hand sanitizer use required upon entry to the building | 70.75%
  • only one adult allowed in building with child | 70.75%
  • reduced class sizes for first opening phase | 66.04%
  • 6 ft markers on flooring | 65.09%
  • one way in and one way out of the building | 62.26%
  • customer health questionnaire posted at entrance to the building | 57.55%
  • closing locker rooms/changing rooms | 57.55%
  • staff health questionnaire at start of each shift | 55.66%
  • customer temperature checks as they enter the building | 52.83%
  • Plexiglas shield installed at customer service desk | 41.51%
  • private lessons only | 38.68%
  • staggered start times for classes | 38.68%
  • customer health questionnaire completed by each person prior to entering the building | 28.30%
  • other | 20.38%

Swim School Instruction Operates in Chlorinated Water Which Deactivates the COVID Virus
Per the CDC there has been no evidence of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in a pool. Participants and instructors are literally submerged in disinfecting (chlorinated) water many times during instruction. Many swim school pools go beyond standard pool hygiene code, adding extra UV light disinfection to pools for enhanced purity. Swim schools also typically go above and beyond the state laws to check and record pool chlorine levels, checking as much as four times a day to as often as every hour.

We are all needing to make tough choices as we navigate this pandemic as a community. Learning to swim is an essential life skill. One that is a vital layer of drowning prevention. It’s also an activity affording some great cognitive and physical benefits to children, a subject we will cover in more detail on a future post. In a time when activities are limited, learning to swim may be a great option for your family. We will continue to monitor best practices, guidance and data to allow our swim school members to make informed decisions to operate as safely as they are able.

 

UPDATE 9-25-2020:

Based on our recent survey of our membership, 41,982 students have been swimming weekly for an average of 3 months with 2,612 staff members currently working at swim schools.

While according to our survey there have been 99 cases of COVID-19 positive exposures within swim school facilities there have only been two case traced to a swim school, with zero students impacted.

Schools feel their health protocols are working and overall 85% feel they have an exceptional or very good culture of compliance.

All staff on deck, lobby, office wear cloth masks is now the leading health measure at 90%, followed by staff temperature checks at the start of each shift at 84%. Only one adult in the building with a child is at 82% and all customers wearing cloth masks in the building is at 79%.

How Swim Schools Differ from Public Schools

There has been a lot of debate right now about the reopening of public and private schools for kids. This is not the place to debate the options and shoulds here, but we do want to point out how swim schools differ from public schools.

In public schools students are in school for at least five hours a day, five days a week. | In most swim schools students are only in lessons for up to a half hour, once or twice a week.

In public schools large classes sizes are the norm, some as high as 30 students to a class. | Swim schools offer small class sizes with 1 to 4 students in most classes.

In public schools there are multiple surfaces and teaching tools needing disinfection. | In swim schools, when swimming, students and teaching tools are in chlorinated water that inactivates viruses.

In public schools there are multiple departments that would need to be reactivated such as bus and cafeteria services. | Swim schools offer focused class structure providing the best swim instruction for your student.

The swim school business is all about safety. Providing safety instruction in a carefully managed and safe environment is all we do, and even outside of COVID-19, we do everything and anything we possibly can to keep the children in our care safe. We are stewards of safety; it is in our DNA. Swim schools have in many cases gone above and beyond local and state guidelines to keep students and staff safe. Reach out swim schools in your area to learn more about the safety protocols they have in place.