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Swimming lessons resume after Covid-19 restrictions prevented instruction

Mike Scott, the aquatics supervisor with the Town of Hay River, is among the instructors as swimming lessons resume at the swimming pool. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Swimming lessons are returning this week to the swimming pool in Hay River.

The lessons had not resumed when the pool reopened in November from its Covid-19 shutdown that began just over one year ago.

They were scheduled to begin this week on the evenings of March 23 and March 25.

"I think it was something that was missing," said Stephane Millette, the director of recreation with the Town of Hay River. "It's an important service for the community. It's important for kids to learn to be safe around the water and to be good swimmers. It's a valuable life skill and we wanted to bring them back as soon as we could in a safe and responsible manner, and we're at that point now."

There appears to have been a demand in the community for the lessons.

Registration opened on March 15 and there were 15 young would-be swimmers signed up by March 19.

Up to 30 learners aged three to 12 years will continue the twice-a-week lessons for four weeks.

Mike Scott, the aquatics supervisor with the Town of Hay River, will be one of three instructors of the lessons, which will be divided into six classes of five learners each.

"Because only three of us are teaching, we're going to do three classes from 5:30-6:15 and then another three classes from 6:15 to 7," he said. "So basically like two sets."

Scott also thinks swimming lessons are important to offer.

"Given where we live with the amount of water that's around, I mean it's a way of life pretty much," he said, noting the ability to swim could be needed for everything from traditional activities to boating. "You never know. So it's good for people to at least have a basic level of knowledge there."

Swimming is a life skill, he added. "I mean we live in Canada. There are lakes all over the place. You need to know how to swim."

The swimming lessons will be different from previous classes because of Covid-19 concerns.

"The way we're going to run it now is we're going to teach from out of the water on the pool deck," said Scott. "So some of the older classes, a couple of them, it won't be an issue. For the younger ones, we're going to have parents in the water with the kids to kind of act as our hands for helping them with floats."

The different classes will also be spaced out to various sections of the pool.

While there are currently only three swimming instructors at the pool, Scott said that an instructor course is set to begin this week for most of the other lifeguards, and more lessons will be offered when that training is complete.

"It's a 40-hour course," he said. "It takes a little bit of time."

When the instructor training is finished, there will be eight qualified instructors at the pool.

Millette said that the town applied to the GNWT in December to resume swimming lessons.

"They recommended we wait until after the holidays and see if there was any increase to Covid risk or Covid cases throughout the holidays and holiday travel," he said. "And when the situation remained pretty much the same, we applied for an exemption to the public health order requirements. We applied in February and received confirmation shortly after."

Millette said that one of the concerns about swimming lessons with regard to Covid-19 is that instruction usually involves close contact with learners.