Drowning is a public safety issue. Approximately 3,500 people per year in the United States die due to accidental drowning. About 97 accidental drownings occur in Virginia each year. Alcohol is a factor in about 37% of those drownings; about 22% of all fatal drowning victims are legally drunk. Failure to wear a life jacket on a boat results in about 6% of all drowning deaths. About 10% of all drowning victims are children under the age of 4. Data on the swimming ability of drowning victims is unknown as it isn’t collected.
In the interest of public safety, Prince William County Schools apparently intends to implement a comprehensive swimming program to ensure that each public school student can swim before they graduate. PWCS says it will have to build a $10.5 – $12 million aquatics complex at the 12th high school to provide swimming lessons for it 84,000 + students. The complex at the 12th high school is projected to cost the school division approximately $1.5 million annually in operating, management, and debt service expenses. Additional pools at other schools in the county may be necessary to support the program, though no plans have been developed to provide those pools. No details on the swimming program have been announced.
Accidental deaths are heartbreaking, particularly when they could have been prevented. No one wants to argue against public safety. However, if PWCS was so concerned about the safety of its students and the likelihood that they might drown at some time in their lives, why haven’t they done anything about it until now? If their concern was so great, why are they waiting to implement this “life saving swimming program” until 2016? Do today’s students not matter? All of the recreation centers in the county have space available during the day, so lack of indoor swimming facilities can’t be the reason.
Why is PWCS so concerned about drowning, now? Why is it waiting three years to address this pressing public safety concern?
Each year 224 people die due to drunk driving in Virginia. Another 36 die due swimming or boating while drunk. That’s 250 deaths per year due to drunk driving or swimming or boating while drunk.
Each year 61 people die in Virginia due to non-alcohol related drownings, yet PWCS has decided that drowning prevention presents such an imperative public safety concern that it must be addressed, starting 3 years from now. Not next school year, three years from now.
PWCS students and graduates are far more likely to be killed by a drunk driver or driving drunk themselves than they are to drown. If PWCS was really concerned about their students’ safety, wouldn’t they do everything possible to educate students about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption?
Could it be that “public safety” is the latest straw PWCS has grasped in an effort to justify building the aquatics complex at the 12th high school?
Medical Examiner of Virginia http://www.vdh.state.va.us/medExam/pdf/AccidentalDrownings.pdf
Safe Kids Council http://www.safekids.org/coalitions?folder_id=540
US Centers for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html
The Century Council http://www.centurycouncil.org/state-facts/virginia