SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sonya Wattier grew up in and near water as a kid in Norfolk, Nebraska.
Her parents introduced her to water at the local YMCA at a very young age. During the summer, the family would head north to the Missouri River and lake water near Yankton.
Wattier now helps kids in the Yankton area get comfortable in the water as the recreation director for parks and recreation for the city of Yankton.
Yankton is one of many cities offering swimming lessons this summer across the region.
The city will have a series of lessons at the indoor pool and Huether Aquatic Center.
The city will have 26 classes in one session and 22 classes in the second session. The classes are lower-level classes. Because the pool staff is split with the outdoor pool, Wattier said the class sizes are small with ratios of one instructor to four to five or six students.
The number increase with the outdoor lessons with 90 kids registered in the first public session of lessons. Another 138 kids are registered for the second session which is three and four sessions combined, Wattier said. The city also provides private lessons to two daycare facilities and the local Boys and Girls Club. Those classes have 120 kids.
Wattier said parents, and even, grandparents ask about swimming lessons because of the abundance of surface water near Yankton. People know they may be spending time at the lake.
But, the aquatic center which was built in 2021 has also increased interest in swimming lessons, Wattier said.
Parents know their kids that are enrolled in daycares and in the Boys and Girls Club will be headed to the outdoor pool, Wattier said. Swimming lessons means their kids will be safer in the water.
Learning to swim is an important life skill, said Jean Pearson, the director of aquatics for Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation.
“My philosophy is I want people to learn how to swim,” Pearson said. At a minimum, the skill levels needs to be enough to get a person safely out of a situation they may be facing, she said.
The city has responded to a growing demand for swimming lessons by adding two more sessions of lessons at the outdoor pools, Pearson said.
“We continually see more people enrolling in swimming lessons,” Pearson said. The classes fill up or are nearly full so this year was the right time to add two more sessions.
The city had 188 classes last year that served about 1,200 participants.
The goal is to get 2,000 participants in this year’s four sessions at the outdoor pools, Pearson said.
Registration for the second summer lesson sessions is in June and July. Information is available on the city’s aquatic center outdoor swimming lessons page or in the 2023 summer activities booklet.
The cost of two weeks of classes for levels one through six is $20, she said. The cost for one week of toddler and preschool level is $15 for one week.
Yankton charges $45 plus tax for classes. “The city feels swimming is an important safety skill…,” Wattier said. For that reason, it offers swimming class scholarships for qualified participants, she said.
Wattier has taught public and private swimming lessons.
“On the first day, especially in the lower levels, they come in nervous…” Wattier said. Before long those nervous kids learn that it’s OK to get their faces wet and blow bubbles in the water.
“Even after four or five lessons, they are splashing and getting their faces wet with smiles on their faces,” Wattier said. “It’s such a change.”
By the end of the second week, some kids as young as four or five may be comfortable floating on their backs, Wattier said.
Wattier encouraged parents to register or at least ask about available swimming lesson slots. If a child doesn’t progress as well or is not comfortable in a group, private lessons are an option, Wattier said.
A page on the city’s website includes information about summer activities and a download option for the summer activities booklet.