Regional partnership teaching CBCS kindergartners lessons…and fun!

‘Swim for PE’ pilot program seen as a success

By Mark Reaman

A collaboration this spring between government entities and private local families has helped Crested Butte Community School (CBCS) kindergartners not only have some unusual fun during three school days in late April and early May but it provided an important life skill. Almost 40 students hopped on a school bus and traveled to the Gunnison Recreation Center for swimming lessons in a first of its kind partnership between the school district, the Gunnison County MetRec district, the Rec Center and private individuals.

“To my knowledge this is the first time ever that an entire grade from CBCS was bused to the Gunnison Rec Center for swimming education,” said parent and a board member of the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District Cassia Cadenhead. “Thirty-nine students, the entire grade rode one bus down and then split in half. Twenty went and played in the Mat Room while the first wave of 19 kids received their 30-minute swim lesson. They all switched for the second wave. For some of the kids it was their first experience swimming, let alone getting lessons.”

According to Cadenhead, the entire initiative was budgeted at $2,572. CBCS matched contributions in-kind with $900 for insurance and reduced bus mileage fees. MetRec donated $961 and there was $710 in private funding. “So much good was achieved with this lower dollar collaboration. This was the first swimming experience of their lives for some of the kids,” she explained. “The collaboration between the special districts and the private funding means that lessons were provided to the CBCS families at no cost. The Gunnison Rec Center provided the lessons at a reduced rate. The entire grade was included in the program.”

That the program was geared toward kindergarteners was not an accident. “Kindergartners were the targeted age for the grant as the lifeguards at the Rec Center stated that age group was the most common age that needed help at the pool,” said Cadenhead. “So, it was a combination of fun and an important skill for the kids to have in their life. I overheard a parent volunteer saying how impressed the swim instructors were with the progress of the students in the three Friday lessons. The final chunk of each swim lesson was dedicated to fun play in the water, even including the yellow/red water slide.”

The program was such a success that the goal is to continue it, for both the kindergartners that took part this spring and the ones entering school next fall. 

Cadenhead said that CBCS has stated that they will be applying for a 2023 Met Rec grant in hopes of repeating the initiative. She said they will be applying for three lessons for each kindergartner for next spring, and three lessons for each first grader for this fall. That, in theory, means each child would receive six swim lessons which Cadenhead explained is roughly how many lessons the American Red Cross states as necessary for gaining the life safety skill of swimming.

In order to continue with the MetRec funding, CBCS will need to win a 2023 MetRec grant request.  “Personally, I hope that “Swim for PE” turns into a reoccurring activity going forward,” she said.

Cadenhead said the students received a t-shirt from Pat’s Screen Printing and a certificate courtesy of the Paperclip. She said CBCS kindergarten teacher Dana Wiegand, school district transportation director Paul Morgan, and elementary school principal Sally Hensley were vital to this program launching this spring. “A huge thank you goes out to the bus drivers of the school district. Without them this program can’t happen,” Cadenhead concluded. “In fact, we have waited two years on there being bus driver availability and this was the year! Loading up the entire grade on a school bus to head south for a huge day at the Rec Center was no small thing either.  The teachers mentioned how impressed they were with the Rec Center and their ability to deliver high quality programing.  Thank you to everyone who had a part in this happening.”

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