Ocean City Today

Beach, water safety program focus

By Kara Hallissey | Nov 02, 2017

(Nov. 3, 2017) Nearly 500 Worcester County Public School fourth graders will take part in a water and beach safety program this spring thanks to funding efforts by Superintendent Lou Taylor and Chief Financial Officer Vince Tolbert.

“I think it is an incredibly valuable skill for children in this region to learn to swim,” Taylor said. “With the rich opportunities that the Pocomoke River, Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean offer, we want to be sure students are properly prepared with safety techniques to be able to enjoy the water-based experiences available to them.”

This spring, fourth-grade students at Berlin Intermediate and Ocean City Elementary schools will learn beach and water safety at the Sports Core Pool in Ocean Pines, while Buckingham, Snow Hill and Pocomoke fourth graders are taught these skills at the Pocomoke YMCA.

The plan is for students to receive five weeks of water safety necessities. The fourth graders will be taught for three consecutive days for two hours, said Ocean Pines Aquatics Director Colby Phillips.

“Our main priority is making sure they know what to do in a water-related situation to save themselves,” Phillips said. “With Worcester County being surrounded by water, this is such an important program. We are currently working on the exact curriculum we will be teaching each week and will start meeting with Ward Kovacs with the Ocean City Beach Patrol after the new year to get all the pieces put together.”

Phillips and Kovacs, members of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, are slated to teach fourth graders about rip currents and beach safety.

“It is very exciting to get these kids in the pool so they are able to take care of themselves and feel comfortable in the water,” said Marlyn Barrett of Worcester County Public Schools, who has been talking with Phillips about a program and trying to secure a grant for three years.

“This is very important for Worcester County,” Barrett said. “We live so close to the water and many kids have a fear of water. Once a student panics, there is trouble. Knowing how to float and maintaining themselves in the water is half the battle in getting them to swim.”

Through the county school’s environmental education program, fifth graders use canoes and sixth grade students utilize kayaks, which makes water and swim safety essential, she said.

“When I became superintendent, I was made aware of the issue of funding around this program,” Taylor said. “I worked with our Chief Financial Officer Vince Tolbert to find some funding internally within our local budget to reinstitute this program. It is my hope that this will continue annually, but as with all programs, it is dependent on available funding.”

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