2004-12-03 / Editorial/Opinion

Resistant To A Simple Educational Concept

You would think that Far Rockaway resident Floyd Smith’s idea would be a no-brainer that the Department of Education and the Parks Department could pick up on without any down-side. After the drowning of young people on Rockaway beaches over the past three years, Smith and his community organization decided to lobby for a safer beach. One of his ideas was that all New York City schools should take some time in health education classes to teach water safety and to talk about the dangers of swimming on ocean beaches when no lifeguards are on duty. Simple Concept. No funding necessary. Let’s do it! Smith sent his proposal to local politicians, the Department of Education, Parks Department and the Mayor. He received letters back, all with the same basic message. “Nice idea, don’t call us, we’ll call you.” One prime example is the response letter from Adrian Benepe, the city’s Commissioner for the Department of Parks and Recreation. “Water safety and swimming skills are important lessons for all children. Parks offers free ‘Learn to Swim’ programs at many of our outdoor pools each summer and we encourage youth to become better swimmers by organizing swim teams at each of our indoor pools,” Benepe wrote to Smith. “We are also working with the Department of Education on a proposal to introduce basic water safety to our fifth graders, which we hope to implement should necessary funding materialize.” We wonder whether Benepe and the others understand the problem, never mind the simple solution. The teachers are already in place. The students are already in place. The classes are already programmed. Why should “necessary funding” be necessary at all? It seems to us that this is another case of a city bureaucracy over managing a simple proposal. This important information should be provided to young people and the schools are the place to do it. Perhaps our city-based politicians can get on Benepe’s case and get the job done before some other young people drown in Rockaway next summer.

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