Goldfish Swim School is set to open in Winter Park Tuesday, June 20.
With the official start of summer comes the seemingly never-ending heat and humidity.
Kids frantically make their ways to local pools and swimming holes to cool off, while parents keep a watchful eye from a distance.
Although splashing around in a refreshing pool of water is fun for kids of all ages, if they’re not properly versed in swimming and water safety, then there are real dangers — such as accidental drowning.
Avoiding such incidents is one of the main goals of the new Goldfish Swim School that opens this month in Winter Park.
“It’s a vital important life skill that everyone needs to have — especially in Florida where we are surrounded by pools, and lakes, and there is water everywhere,” said Gina Jacobs Thomas, co-owner of the new facility with her husband, Jon. “Every child needs to learn how to swim.”
The two began looking into opening their own Goldfish franchise in Winter Park for personal reasons. Along with having friends who own multiple franchises and having family in the area, Jon Thomas at one time was a swimmer and lifeguard, and Jacobs Thomas was once a retired dancer and instructor who took an interest in teaching swimming as a way to continue her love for education.
The desire to educate on swim safety specifically comes from her time as a child who had difficulty learning to swim.
“I was that kid that was 7 and 8, and was screaming from the side of pool, terrified to get in the water,” Jacobs Thomas said. “So I always had a soft spot in my heart for those kids, because I understand that emotion really well.”
Located on Lake Howell Road, the indoor facility will consist of one large, heated pool and features swim lanes for both swim lessons and for the recreational swim team that participates in intra-squad meets. There is also a climate-controlled viewing room for parents to watch.
Goldfish breaks up its year-round swim lessons into four different groups depending on age. The early-infant programs are all adult-assisted, so parents are in the water actively participating with their children.
Although some parents may be anxious about having their toddlers in the water, Jacobs Thomas said introducing a child to the water as early as possible is a good way to ensure that they become comfortable more quickly.
“We recommend starting as early as possible — starting at 4 months,” she said. “Developmentally, they are ready at that point. They can hold their head up, and they are able to have some body control in the water.”
Once a child gets to the 3- to 4-year-old group, also known as the junior group, he or she learns swim fundamentals, including breathing and stamina exercises.
Kids also are taught basic water safety skills — such as learning how to roll over onto their back for a breath or how to turn around and get out of the water.
“It’s more of an educational/ developmental/progressional type of curriculum,” Jacobs Thomas said. “So all of the skills they learn, even at the infant level, will be built upon and used as a foundation for those more advanced levels.”
Goldfish also offers a recreational swim team, called Swim Force, which swims in low-level intra-squad meets. The goal for the team is to help develop swimmers who want to go on to compete in more advanced swim competition, while helping to further develop their swim distance and speed.
With the programs in place and facilities finished and ready to go for a June 20 opening, Goldfish currently is booking for lessons, and Jacobs Thomas hopes her classes will help both children and their parents.
“As vigilant as parents can be, we can’t be there every single second of the time that our kids are in the water, so accidents do happen,” Jacobs Thomas said.
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