The Havre de Grace Youth Sailing School, as noted on the front page of our PP&T section last month, was recently given a new dinghy that's ready to sail.
Learning to sail, especially for young people, is an appropriate youth activity for Havre de Grace or any waterfront community. The occasion marked by the front page picture on PP&T was the school, a nonprofit group that's partners with the City of Havre de Grace and the Havre de Grace Yacht Club, receiving the dinghy for its fleet.
The craft, an Optimist, was built by the volunteer boat builders at the Havre de Maritime Museum, who used a 1947 design that is popular for vessels for youth sailing programs. They donated it to the sailing school. All involved are to be congratulated.
The most important element in that photo is all seven of the young people are clearly wearing life vests. Wearing a life vest is important because while being on the water can be a refreshing recreation activity, it can also be deadly.
As anyone who has ever lived near a body of water for any amount of time can attest, the water is dangerous and it can kill.
We have long advocated that teaching children how to swim should be a requirement for public schools. It's a life skill that can save lives.
The Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, not to mention Deer Creek and swimming pools of all shapes and sizes, have taken too many lives. On the Perryville side of the Susquehanna, we mourned another young life lost to the river on the last day of school this year.
Too many families over the generations have mourned the unnecessary loss of loved ones to the water. Drowning is preventable; maybe not in all cases, or all the time, but it is preventable.
People who know how to swim and have been taught water safety are less likely to get into trouble around the water than those who haven't.
The Havre de Grace Sailing School and the obvious boating safety it's teaching is great. Somehow, there has to be a concerted and expanded effort to do the same for swimming.
For the past couple of years, Superintendent Barbara Canavan and her administration have played fast and loose with the future of swimming in Harford County Public Schools. There are three pools in middle schools – Edgewood, Magnolia and North Harford – that have been used for competitive high school swimming programs.
Canavan and crew threatened – all in the name of saving money — to kill the swimming programs and then to shutter the pools that were in great need of big, expensive repairs.
Thankfully, the school board, prompted by parent and student backlash, nixed that idea and appropriated money to fix the pools and keep the swimming programs competing.
The pools were built in the three middle schools, with space set aside for pools in other middle schools as they were being built, because previous school superintendents and their staffs had the foresight to think middle school was the age to teach children to swim. And where better for them to learn than in the school where they were being taught everything else?
For decades, schools have been teaching life sports — golf, tennis, etc. — activities people could play to help them remain active throughout their lives.
It's time to think about saving the lives of some of our young people by forcing them to learn to swim and to be safe around the water.
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Nothing short of making it mandatory for all young people attending our schools to become proficient swimmers will suffice.