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Learn to Swim program goes on despite lifeguard shortage

Sylvia Gurtowski sat in her office at City Pool, a little frazzled but defiant. A shortage of certified lifeguards has made her job as the facility’s manager more difficult. The summer schedule for City Pool is still in flux a few weeks before opening day as she figures out a plan to cover the staffing shortages.

One thing she vows, however, is that the Learn to Swim program will continue.

The program that offers low-cost swim lessons to children and adults is back for another year, with registration to be held May 15-18. The number of classes and scope of the program will be reduced a bit, Gurtowski said, but its mission is unchanged.

“We’re having to downsize a little bit. It’s pretty challenging. We’ve put our brains together and worked this through. We came up with what we think is the best for safety and the quality of our patrons without overworking our staff,” said Gurtowski, the manager of City Pool. “We’re giving the same quality program, but we’re having to work with what we have. It’ll be a good summer.”

The Learn to Swim program uses a level-based system in which swimmers progress from one to the next as they improve. Classes in all six levels will be offered this summer, but there will be more focus on the beginners’ classes since that is where most of the demand is, Gurtowski said.

Of the four classes offered in each two-week session, three will be for beginners in Levels 1-3 and one for swimmers in the more advanced Levels 4-6.

“In Levels 5 and 6 we hardly had any people (last year), so this might pan out for the better,” Gurtowski said. “Sometimes good things come from changing. We won’t be spread out all over the pool. We’ll be able to pay attention to the classes we’re teaching. It’ll be OK. It’ll just be a little different.”

Registration for the Learn to Swim program will be held May 15, 16 and 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day at City Pool, and on May 18 from 10 a.m. to noon. The cost is $15 per person for each two-week session.

Sessions are scheduled for June 3-14, June 24-July 5, and July 15-26. Lessons last 45 minutes and are broken up by both skill and age levels. There are classes for the public, for childcare centers, preschoolers and beginning adults.

Class space, however, is very limited. There are only eight spots per class and three classes per session, so early registration is encouraged to ensure a spot. Classes are filled on a first come, first serve basis.

“History has proven that those Level 1 and preschool classes fill up fast. I’ve already had people calling and wanting to register,” Gurtowski said.

For the preschool lessons, all swimmers must be at least 3 years old on the first day of the class and parent participation is mandatory.

For all other classes, swimmers must be at least 5 years old. A full schedule and more information are available by calling City Pool at 601-634-4516.

Gurtowski said that, even with the challenges of staffing the program, she believes it’s important to offer it — and for Vicksburg’s residents to participate in it.

“It’s very important that people learn to swim, so we do everything we can to make sure we provide those lessons to the public,” Gurtowski said. “They’ve come to expect it, and we want to offer it.”

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