2004-10-22 / Columnists

Local Looks To Education To Stop Drowning Problem

By Howard Schwach

A Far Rockaway activist is looking to the public school system to help stop the problem of young people drowning on the Rockaway shore each summer.

“Three young girls drowned in Rockaway in 2001,” says Floyd Smith, who recently held a two-day rally at Beach 17 Street and got more than 400 signatures asking the city to do more to stop the problem. “We had the same problem this year with a 17-year-old boy drowning when the lifeguards were on duty.”

“It is very clear that we need a curriculum change in our schools,” Smith adds. “We have to give advice and information to our school children, particularly in the lower grades, about the dangers of our New York City beaches.”

Smith has called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to join with School Chancellor Joel Klein to make the program a reality.

While the New York City Department of Education declined to comment until a detailed plan was submitted and approved, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska supported the program.

“Community Board 14 supports the suggestion that all school age children in New York City be warned every spring about the hazards of swimming without a lifeguard and to listen to the instructions of lifeguards,” Gaska said in an October 4 letter to Smith. “It would not be difficult to have schools spend 20 minutes each school year to inform students about unsafe swimming.”

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