As pools open back up for the summer, instructors urge swim lessons for all

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Outside, it's a crisp, 40-degree Friday morning, but inside the Hilton Raleigh North Hills' swimming pool, the water is warm and Amy Joyner's students are suited up, sitting by the edge, swim caps and goggles tightly in place.

Drops of water speckle Joyner's face shield as she pats the pool's surface, calling for one of the 4-year-old girls to jump in on her count.

On three, little Fiona's made a splash, she rolls over, and floats safely on her back.

"It's fun," said Joyner. "It's rewarding. And you're teaching a life skill."

The owner of British Swim School Raleigh is about to open her fourth location at the hotel on Wake Forest Rd., after the pandemic forced her to bring all lessons to a halt last March.

"The kids really do need the repetition to keep their skills going," said Joyner. "We were very concerned. It was heartbreaking, but we're back at it."

Putting COVID-19 safety precautions in place, Joyner has been slowly reopening and is booking up lessons just in time for the busy summer season.

"The winter time and the spring time is the best time for your kids to take swim lessons so that when summertime does come, they already have the skills that they need to navigate the pool in a safe way," she said.

Drowning kills more children ages 1-4, than anything else, aside from birth defects, according to the CDC. Most of those drownings happen at a home swimming pool.

"I'd like a swimming pool, and I wanted to make sure if we do get a pool, that they're safe," said Sophia Zengel, whose 4 and 6-year-old daughters have been learning from Joyner over the last three years.

When Joyner had to close last spring, Zengel kept reinforcing the skills they'd already learned during bath time and trips to area pools.

"When they get right back in the water it's like that," she said, snapping her fingers. "It's like riding a bike for them."

Joyner said in light of pool sales spiking during the pandemic, parents should take necessary precautions of emptying inflatable pools between use, removing toys that could entice children to reach in, set up fences, gate and door locks, and pool alarms as well.

If mom and dad still don't know how to swim, Joyner said it's never too late to start. She teaches everyone from 3-month-old children to adults.

"Swimming is a life skill," she said. "It's something every child needs to learn how to do. Because your kids are gonna want to go swimming, so you need to learn how to go swimming."

For families who may not be able to afford swim lessons, but still want their family to learn, organizations such as Hope Floats, offer scholarships for eligible children.

Other organizations, such as the YMCA, also offer year-round swim lessons with COVID protocols in place.
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