With all that goes into opening a new swim school, from building the location, to hiring and training the team, to getting the word out to local families, you can see why it’s something we celebrate and that makes us very proud.
But that’s doubly true of our new Foss Swim School in Ankeny, Iowa, just north of Des Moines, which opened for Summer Quarter after changes to our operations required to help ensure safety during the COVID-19 era. Despite the challenges, our team in Ankeny was able to overcome uncertainty and open for private and semi-private swim lessons, helping create a safer environment to share the love of water to a new community despite the sudden changes.
We caught up with two of our new FOSS families to hear how class is going and what their experience has been as the parents of new students during this unique time.
Caroline: A new reason to love water
Caroline, an 8-year-old student at Ankeny, had taken swim lessons in previous years at local outdoor pools, but had gotten all she could out of the limited formats of those lessons, says her mother Jessica.
“We had started thinking of doing more than just lessons,” which had focused on water safety, floating and a few fundamentals. “We started talking about learning strokes, and she was really excited,” says Jessica. “Caroline really loves swimming. The number one rule when we go on vacation, if it doesn’t have a pool or a body of water nearby, it’s just out.”
With an older child who has safety fundamentals down, Jessica said their interest in swimming is for exercise, fun and to help Caroline explore an interest, maybe even helping her prepare to join a swim team someday. But for now, “it’s a way to keep kids active in the winter in the Midwest. And with COVID, swimming seems like a safer activity option right now.”
Although they would have chosen group lessons were it not for COVID, Caroline and Jessica have enjoyed the private, one-on-one learning experience because it allows her to learn at her own pace. The other safety precautions taken have also been appreciated by Jessica.
“We got the information about safety, but I was real nervous the first time. But when I walked in, I felt immediately at ease,” says Jessica. The consistent use of masks or shields, occupancy limits, distancing guidelines and people dedicated to cleaning all reassured her that a lot of “care and thought and effort went into planning for safety,” she says.
Most importantly, Caroline is loving the new challenge of learning to swim proficiently. “The progress is great. She’s confidently doing freestyle on her own now.” The family also values the sense of community at FOSS. “Even people who aren’t her instructor know her and have complimented her progress. That’s a big deal for a child, to hear an outside person comment on her swimming. It goes a long way.”
Roc and Gus: Brotherly beginnings
For Roc (4) and Gus (3), swimming has begun as a family affair. Roc had learned some safety basics and water acclimation at local community pools, but as his mother Krysta says, “he really liked it, but would lose interest.” She describes the two boys as high-energy, and Roc especially is fearless around water – enough so that she wants to make sure he has swimming skills and learns to respect water.
“My primary goal is safety,” says Krysta. “I want to feel confident when we take them places around water.” The family vacations on the Alabama coast, and attends occasional pool parties, so water exposure is a given. While Krysta understands there is no substitute for a watchful eye, water safety knowledge and skills go a long way toward reducing the risk of accidents.
“The quality of the instruction is what I’ve been most pleased with,” says Krysta.
Having lived in Chicago, Krysta was familiar with FOSS by reputation, and said her own experience with the new Ankeny pool has lived up to her hopes.
The COVID protections currently in place also meet with her approval: “They’ve done everything you possibly could do.”
With two boys of similar age, Krysta was able to arrange semi-private (two-to-one) classes. (A third child, 18 months, has not yet started lessons.) She was impressed with the flexibility of the instructors to give each child individual attention.
It was needed: Gus, the 3 years old, needed to overcome a fear of water. “They said, this is OK, we want to keep going with this, not push him, but keep going.” A second instructor helped Gus during the lessons when needed, and it paid off, with Gus now able to enjoy lessons alongside Roc. “Now he can’t wait to go to swim class. He’s starting to kick and do his scoops, float, get underwater. It’s turned into what I had in my mind of the two of them swimming together nicely.”