Mon County Commission announces new partnership with Mylan Aquatic Center to provide free swim lessons

Monongalia

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Monongalia County Commission made a big announcement at its meeting on Wednesday about the new “Monongalia Co. Mini Swimmers Project”.

The commission unanimously voted to approve of the project, which has been spearheaded by County Commissioner Tom Bloom for several years. Bloom said the project will be the first of its kind in the state; it will allow the county to partner with the Mylan Aquatic Center to offer free swim lessons to all second-grade students and their parents.

Mylan Park Aquatic Center

“They call me the Energizer Bunny and the batteries that are making me move today are just unbelievable,” Bloom said. “It took nine years from walking into Oliver Luck’s office. He supported it. I really didn’t give it an opportunity to die.”

Bloom said he didn’t want the idea to die because offering water safety courses to students and their parents is vital.

Representatives from Mylan Park and the Aquatic Center who spoke during the commission meeting agreed. Jennifer Lainhart, Mylan Park director of Aquatics, said teaching kids and their parents how to swim helps to prevent drowning.

Even Superintendent of County Schools Eddie Campbell said it would be a “tremendous, tremendous, opportunity for kids and their lives.”

Campbell, left, telling the Commission about why he approves of the Mon Co. Mini Swimmers Project

Now that the county’s Board of Education is on board with the three-year plan, the ball can start rolling soon, Bloom said. 

“They’re going to start the process of looking to get the information during the second semester,” Bloom said. “We will be able to offer field trips in the second semester. And the key being in the summer program, when we have these enrichment programs, will hopefully increase numbers in the enrichment programs and at the same time, offer services. So, whether you attend Mason Dixon Elementary School or Skyview Cheat Lake, you will be able to participate like every other student to learn how to swim.”

Bloom said the county choose second graders because that’s a key age. Lainhart agreed and said statistics show if you don’t learn how to swim by nine years old you will likely never learn.

She and Bloom said a program operated by the American Red Cross will help students and their parents either learn how to swim or place them on an advanced track if they are proficient swimmers.   

All in all, the program will run for three years before being evaluated. In the first year, according to Commission President Sean Sikora, it will cost the county $300,000 and then only $200,000 in the following years.

The extra money in the first year is to help give the Aquatic Center a jump start after COVID and to help it develop new programs that can increase membership, Sikora said.

All of this will not cost a penny to taxpayers, Bloom said because the money will be sourced from the county’s hotel-motel tax.

No taxpayer dollars were used to build the Aquatic Center, he added, so this is almost a cost-free program to the county, which directly benefits its youth.

Commissioner Tom Bloom

“No taxpayer dollar was used for the bricks and mortar for the building, nor for this program, and that’s why we’re thinking out of the box,” Bloom said. “And I’m very excited. Today is a great day that I look forward to working with everyone to see several years from now people saying ‘I learned how to swim at this program’. And it’s funded for three years and then, we’re going to re-evaluate the program.”

Bloom said he would like to thank the County Commission for making the Mon County Mini Swimmers Project possible.

He also extended his gratitude toward the teams at the BOE and Mylan Park who stepped up and worked together to make his dream project a reality.

“I’m really, really excited, and I can’t wait to see the kids learning how to swim,” Bloom said.  

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