With the opening of its newest facility this year, 1,200-second grade students at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District will end their school year with the fundamentals for a life-long, potentially life-saving skill.
This year, the district will launch the Safely Educating Aquatic Learners (SEAL) Swim Program, which is aimed at providing all second grade students the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of swimming and water safety. Facilitated through the opening of the HCISD’s Aquatic Center, a cutting-edge athletic and wellness facility, the building will host the program for all 17 of the district’s elementary campuses. Wellness will also be a focus, as students will learn about the health benefits of aquatic activities.
“Our Aquatic Center provides our students with a state-of-the-art wellness facility to introduce the fundamentals of water safety and facilitate the development of a lifelong passion for aquatic activity,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “We are excited to see the positive impact this initial year will have on our students and the opportunities it will create to encourage an active lifestyle.”
One of the reasons the program was developed was to introduce water safety as many students in the district reside in areas near open water sources, said Sandra Flinn, Aquatics Center Coordinator Flinn, a former collegiate swimmer at Texas A&M University and swim coach for over 25 years, sees the benefits of introducing these skills early on.
“Safety is number one,” said Flinn. “We looked at the statistics and wanted to provide our students with the fundamentals of swimming so they feel more comfortable in the water. That’s our main goal. To help them feel safe so when they do come in contact with water it’s a positive experience.”
The SEAL Swim program will take place during students’ physical education periods and each second grade class will have a designated period during the year to participate. Keeping the quality of education in mind, there will be a certified instructor for every eight students with lifeguards on duty at all times. The process for seeking certified and qualified individuals has been so thorough that Flinn is confident that the community will be blown away with the qualifications of the staff, she said. Parents will also be informed every step of the way as they will receive an overview of the program with an option to decline their child’s participation.
Much time and preparation has gone into the development of the SEAL Swim program, but for the school district, it’s been a worthwhile venture to promote the three A’s, Academics, Fine Arts and Athletics.
“Our mission is to provide athletic/wellness programs that enrich the lives of our students and learning community in every capacity,” said Luis Solorio, Coordinator of Athletics and Wellness. “Our students will be met with unmatched support from our staff and administration as efforts are continued toward accomplishing our mission each and every day.”
In addition to the water safety program, the facility, which will open during the 2014 – 2014 school year, will be home to the district’s secondary campus swim programs and serve as a competition facility. Located on the east side of Harlingen’s J. Lewis Boggus Stadium, S. 13th and E. Jackson, it includes a 10-lane 25-yard competition pool, a separate fitness pool and a diving well. Spectators are also welcome as the facility has over 400 seats.
In previous years, students used city facilities to train for competitions, but now with the high quality equipment they will have access to, students are looking forward to the impact it will have on their competitive season.
“Knowing that you’re practicing at a new facility makes you excited to train and want to do better,” said Michael Garza, freshman at Harlingen School of Health Professions. “You feel more prepared for higher ranking meets, because you’ll have the opportunity to practice with the best equipment.”
It’s not only students that are excited, parent Tina Garza is looking forward to what the facility will mean for fellow supporters and their competition experience.
“I’m excited that we will be able to see our students compete in our own backyard, said Tina.” It gives them an advantage by training at the facility, and for my younger one, I hope it will give him an early spark to continue swimming. It brings more support to these programs and our students by giving families more opportunities to attend the events.”
Although in progress, there are also plans to expand the facility’s services for staff and community use.
Voters approved the new facility in May 2010 as part of the $98.6 million bond initiative. Additional bond projects include the AG Farm, Performing Arts Center, the new Memorial Middle School campus and Boggus Stadium renovations.