One of the most comprehensive and inclusive swim programs in the country, Let’s Swim Bahamas, has released its end-of-year report, and whereas it operated in the red for the 2019-2020 fiscal period, directors Andy and Nancy Knowles are encouraged by the support that they continue to receive.
“Despite having a rough start due to Hurricane Dorian and finish due to COVID-19 this year, Let’s Swim Bahamas has made significant strides in reaching our long-term goals,” the report read. “We cannot thank you all enough for your support and encouragement as we continue to work toward Let’s Swim Bahamas, giving every child an opportunity to learn how to swim.”
From September 2019 to March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic reached The Bahamas, almost 7,000 lessons were taught to students – more than double from the previous year. “This increase is the result of moving from two to four lessons per day and more grades and schools participating in the program,” the report stated.
The program operated primarily at four sites – St. Andrew’s School, the University of The Bahamas (UB), Queen’s College and Lyford Cay School. The Betty Kelly-Kenning National Swim Complex was utilized for advanced students who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian in September. The program has embraced a new partnership with Queen’s College and the Barracuda Swim Club, and in so doing, four schools were added to the program – Uriah McPhee, Claridge Primary, Palmdale Primary and Centreville Primary.
Other primary schools in the program are: Thelma Gibson, Sadie Curtis, Sandilands, Woodcock, Eva Hilton, T.G. Glover, Albury Sayles, Stephen Dillet, Adelaide and Gambier. A total of 142 students from six schools at two sites were scheduled to start classes on March 23, but that had to be rescheduled due to COVID-19. Plans were also made to start classes for grade four students from four schools at South Beach Pools, but those plans had to be put on hold as well. The four schools are Cleveland Eneas, Gerald Cash, Sybil Strachan and Carlton Francis.
A couple of schools, Thelma Gibson and Sandilands, had students from grades one to six taking swimming lessons.
A total of five students completed all 10 stations of the lessons, and received the Swim America Award of Achievement each.
The program’s second edition of “Snorkel and Tim go for a Swim” water safety coloring and activity book was distributed to all grade one students in government primary schools throughout The Bahamas, courtesy of sponsors Wendy’s Bahamas Ltd., Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Marco’s Pizza.
There were 19 after-school and summer scholarship swimmers from nine different schools, which represented a low number because the program was unable to be offered during spring and summer 2020 due to physical distancing guidelines and restrictions from COVID-19.
Sandals Resorts joined the sponsorship team this year.
“We are excited to be working with Sandals and Julien Brice of Myrtha Pools in developing a plan to bring swimming lessons to the students of Great Exuma,” the report read. “We have been able to achieve all of the above because of our excellent and enthusiastic team of site supervisors, coaches, marshals and bus drivers/companies. Also, the schools (principals and teachers) have been much more supportive of the Let’s Swim Bahamas program.”
In 2021, directors of the program plan to continue to improve the registration process, with the intent of it being quicker, more efficient and thorough, with an emphasis on a deadline date. They also plan to renew their four-year agreement with the Ministry of Education, produce a second mini documentary and continue to work within the confines of five sites depending on what COVID-19 physical distancing protocols are announced.
The program received donations of over $70,000 during the 2019-2020 fiscal period.