Starting with the next school year, water safety will join reading, writing and arithmetic as a topic taught in Denison schools. The Denison City Council approved a partnership Monday between the city and Denison Independent School District for the new “Aqua Access” program that would teach basic water safety in the second grade.


“This would provide all second grade students with in-class lessons and hands-on experience on water safety provided by the Waterloo (Pool) staff during the school day,” Denison Parks and Recreation Director Sunny Mackey said Monday.


Mackey said Parks and Recreation wanted to hold the classes due to the many water features in the region, especially with its proximity to Lake Texoma.


“It is an invaluable lesson as a whole,” Mackey said.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that fatal drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the U.S. behind motor vehicle crashes. Each day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning; of these, two are children under the age of 14, the CDC said in a report from 2016.


Under the Denison program, all students would be given seven lessons on water safety ranging from knowing the water environment and use of safety gear to how to help someone else who may be drowning during their normal lessons in the classroom. Mackey said the lessons would likely take place over a month for each school.


In addition to providing classroom instruction, Mackey said each of the students will be provided with a voucher for four hours of swimming instruction at Waterloo Pool that can be used in their own free time. Mackey said typical swimming lessons are eight sessions, but a condensed version of that training would be provided.


“The material and water safety lessons within this teacher’s guide will give students a basic understanding of water safety, but certified swimming instructions and aquatic classes are the best sources for children to get hands-on training,” the proposed curriculum said.


On Wednesday, city staff will meet with each elementary school principal in the district to discuss the program, DISD Superintendent Henry Scott said. Between the 18 second-grade classes Scott said there are about 360 students enrolled.


“I like to think that it has the potential to be a tremendous program,” Scott said. “So many times, kids get into a water situation because they don’t really know how quickly it can get dangerous.”


In previous years, the district has offered boat safety classes through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but this is the first time the district has been able to offer general water safety, he said.


When asked about the timing of the training, Scott said he felt that late spring and early summer would be the best time, but said he was uncertain what time frame would work best for the program. Mackey also noted that May is water safety month.


The project is expected to cost the city about $6,000 per year. After the program enters into its second year, Mackey said the city will be eligible for grants that could finance the entire program.


Regardless of future grants, City Manager Jud Rex said the program is a good investment by the city.


“I think it is a great opportunity to partner with the Denison ISD and a chance for early education on water safety and swimming,” Rex said. ” I think giving every student the opportunity to learn that is very important.”