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School Brings Back Swim Requirement After Pool Tragedy

Devon Christopher Adams

A tragedy in Wenatchee, Wash., is prompting educators there to bring back a high school aquatics program. Starting this fall, high school freshmen in the central Washington city will have to demonstrate they know how to swim.

Formal swimming lessons in Wenatchee had gone by the wayside, as is frequently the case lately in public schools. But the Wenatchee school board is now reversing course.

In November 2011, a freshman named Antonio Reyes drowned in the high school swimming pool.

One of the people who pushed the school board to pass the swimming requirement is Tawnee Tidd. She's a Wenatchee High School senior and Reyes' former classmate.

“I was in that class where it happened," Tidd says. "No one really knew that he had gone under. And it just really kind of struck me, that we get together and make sure this wouldn't have to happen again.”

Wenatchee's move to make sure students know how to swim is an anomaly, according to the president of the National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association. He says in the last couple of decades districts have dropped swimming classes and new high schools often don't have pools at all.

Last fall, the district settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Reyes' family for $2 million. But Reyes isn't the only Wenatchee teen who's drowned. The city sits at the confluence of the Columbia and Wenatchee rivers. Last Memorial Day weekend, a 13-year-old girl died after being swept away by the Columbia.

On the Web:

Wenatchee Swimfest - a new water safety event in Wenatchee