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Updated: 07/16/2014 10:22:01AM

Swim lessons offered at LPHS pool

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Kim Leatherman / News-Journal

5-year-old Payton Behrman jumps to swim instructor Annie Weber-Callahan.

Kim Leatherman / News-Journal

Ava Ritacco, 3, the daughter of Mike Rotacco, leaps from the diving board at the LPHS pool.

Kim Leatherman / News-Journal

Kaylee Grigsby tucks for a cannonball at the LPHS pool. Much to her delight, the tiny girl made a big splash.

Kim Leatherman / News-Journal

With her ponytail flying behind her, Briana Behrman jumps from the diving board and into the pool at LPHS.

Kim Leatherman / News-Journal

Mike Ritacco with his kids, Ava (3), J.R. (4) and Isabell (6) at swim lessons this week at the LPHS pool.

Kim Leatherman / News-Journal

Allainne Pruett toes the end of the diving board as she works up the courage to jump.


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Florida’s leading cause of death for children under 5 years of age is unintentional drowning. Florida leads the nation in drownings for ages one to four. While these statistics are heartbreaking, they are avoidable for the most part.

Swimming lessons are incredibly important, especially in Highlands County where lakes, canals and pools are in almost every neighborhood. Classes are offered at the Lake Placid High School pool. Affordable and convenient, six week sessions are available at a cost of $25 per session.

“All instructors are CPR, lifeguard, first aid and Water Safety Instructor certified,” said pool supervisor Kari Lambert. “They have to renew their certifications every two years.”

Classes are offered on multiple experience levels, from mom and tot to 13-year-olds and even adults who wish to learn or to improve their skills. Classes meet at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and 5:10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We teach the little ones to get to the edge,” said Lambert. “It’s important for them to learn not to panic.”

Public swim sessions are lifeguard supervised and run from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, weather permitting. Admission is $2.50.

Mike Ritacco used to be a lifeguard and has opted to take three of his children to swimming lessons at LPHS. “The kids knew how to swim fairly well,” Ritacco said. “They are honing their skills. Sometimes they learn better form someone else. I know the importance of water safety.”

Highlands County has an abundance of both man-made and natural bodies of water. While this is ideal for recreation, dangers can be present. Always be aware of your surroundings and use safety precautions to prevent your child from becoming a statistic, experts advise.

Drownings can happen quickly and silently within a minute. Young children can drown in as little as two inches of water. Toilets, bathtubs and buckets are all places where the threat of drowning may not be obvious. Childproof locks are sold for toilets; buckets and bathtubs should be completely drained after use.

According to, most drownings occur in pools, spas, and bathtubs. In response to this, Florida has implemented a program entitled “WaterproofFL- Pool Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility.” The program focuses on prevention and having an emergency plan in place.

The contributing factors to unintentional drownings include lack of supervision, swimming abilities and barriers, alcohol use and seizures. Supervision is the first layer of protection, this means active supervision; not talking on the phone or reading a book.

A four-sided fence barrier that separates a house from its pool is recommended. Alarms that emit a high pitch when doors are opened can alert parents to little ones heading toward danger. Alarms are also available to go off when the surface of a pool is disturbed.

Covers on spas and pools when not in use reduce risk of injuries or drownings. Ladders should be taken away from above ground pools to prevent temptation. Safety drains should be installed in pools and hot tubs and is mandated by law in public pools.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a lifesaving form of first aid if a child stops breathing. CPR should be administered until emergency medical help arrives on scene. Lake Placid Police Department offers CPR classes, as does the Red Cross.