Last week, the New York City Council passed a comprehensive legislative package aimed at improving water safety programs across the city while also expanding access to public pools. As part of the new laws, the city will now officially offer second graders free swimming lessons.
"Today, New York City takes a monumental step towards ensuring every child can swim," Councilmember Julie Menin said in an official statement about the development. "For the safety of our children and the well-being of our communities, we must ensure that every New Yorker has the opportunity to learn how to swim."
Considering that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1 to 4, we applaud the effort and hope it will soon extend to even younger grades. (The CDC also notes that drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14.)
More data points to the need of swim lessons: according to a 2017 city survey, one quarter of students do not know how to swim. Even more troubling, statistics shift when looking at specific demographics: whereas one in three Black students can't swim, the number is closer to one in ten when looking at white pupils.
This isn't the city's first effort at curbing the problem. In fact, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg launched a similar swim program for second graders back when he was in charge of the city. The initiative has since then expired.
Also, according to Gothamist, around 6,000 children have benefited from the Learn to Swim program this past year. Under the new set of bills, though, close to 70,000 second-graders alone might benefit from the new policy.
The new legislation also calls for stricter requirements for lifeguards, staffing and training at pools and beaches around the city, while also prompting officials to start finding new locations to establish even more public pools.
If all is in order, we expect next summer to be a truly great one.