Vicksburg City Pool’s Learn to Swim program offers low-cost swim lessons

Published 4:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2023

Among her many tasks as the manager of City Pool, there’s one that Sylvia Gurtowski not only enjoys more than the others but cherishes — teaching people how to swim.

“It’s the best part of my job,” she said. “Even if you just teach one person to swim and see the joy in their face when they make it across the pool, that’s worth more than gold.”

Those moments are ones Gurtowski strives to bring Vicksburg’s residents as often as possible each summer. She leads the American Red Cross Learn to Swim program at City Pool, which provides low-cost swim lessons to children and adults.

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The 2023 Learn to Swim program will begin in June, but registration is next week on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost is only $15 for eight lessons, and payment must be made by cash or check only.

“It’s the best deal in town,” Gurtowski said. “It’s still two weeks of lessons for $15. Inflation has not gotten to us.”

Registration will begin Wednesday, May 17 and continue through Friday, May 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day at the City Park Pavilion. On Saturday, May 20, one last sign-up period will be open from 10 a.m. to noon at City Pool on Lee Street. Registration must be done in person.

The two-week Learn to Swim sessions will be at City Pool from June 5-16; June 26 to July 7 and July 17-28. Classes are held at 9, 10 and 11 a.m., and at 5:45 p.m. each weekday during the sessions. Each session is guaranteed to have at least eight classes.

Because of an ongoing lifeguard shortage, no more than six students will be registered per class, so early registration is encouraged. The small classes help ensure the safety of swimmers as well as better instruction. Certified Red Cross lifeguards lead each class.

Gurtowski said about 300 people signed up for the program in 2022.

“I hate that we can’t offer more than we are, but at least we are able to offer quality swim lessons at a low price,” Gurtowski said.

Children must be at least 5 years old to take most of the classes, or 3 years old if they are in one of the preschool classes. Although children make up the majority of Learn to Swim participants, Gurtowski noted that the program is open to people of all ages. More than a dozen adults took the classes last year.

For children, the Learn to Swim program can build a foundation of swimming skills. For adults who can’t swim, Gurtowski said, it can be a lifesaver. Staying calm and comfortable if you fall into a pool or lake often makes the difference between a funny accident and a tragedy.

“We like to teach older people, too. If they’ve always been leery of the water they are terrified. But we have gotten them at least comfortable in the water,” Gurtowski said. “If you fall out of the boat you want to be able to get back to the shore, or the side of the pool.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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