Safety stressed at soon-to-open Goldfish Swim School in Peters Township

Harry Funk
Observer Reporter

Potential nightmare scenarios are something that the folks at Goldfish Swim School are all too familiar.

“We’ve heard many stories just in the short time we’ve been in Pennsylvania of parents coming up and saying, ‘My child fell in. They turned around and swam to the wall,’” said Christine Palmer, the regional manager for the Michigan-based company.

“What happens with anybody – but a child, especially – you fall in the water, and you see what’s across from you, which is far away,” she explained. “So that’s part of the curriculum, teaching them to turn to be able to pull themselves out.”

As construction on its new Peters Township location nears its conclusion, Goldfish plans to start lessons April 2 with the goal of helping to mitigate some grim statistics: In the United States, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury death in children ages 1 to 14, according to the World Health Organization.

Lessons at Goldfish actually can begin well before a child’s first birthday.

“We work with them from 4 months old,” Palmer said, “learning how to glide out, turn over, to float, to be able to then also have their grasp reflexes with their fingers,” also for the ability to extricate themselves.

She mentioned a girl at the Goldfish’s Pine Township location who developed the ability to swim a good 10 feet on her own when she was not even 2.

“When you look at a child that small who is in the water and truly swimming and moving herself, it’s pretty impressive,” she said. “So it’s a rewarding job when you know that if that kid fell in the water, she could get herself to safety.”

The school provides lessons for children through age 12, with indoor facilities – Peters’ will feature a 75-by-30-foot pool – allowing for instruction to continue throughout the year, rather than on a seasonal basis, as a way to promote continuity.

“Kids regress,” Palmer explained. “If they’re not staying on top of it, they’re not going to keep up on what they’ve learned.”

The concept was brand new to the region when franchise owners Scott and Christy Payne saw the Pine complex through to a November 2014 opening, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response.

“Once Wexford got up and running, we knew we wanted to do another one right away in Pittsburgh,” Palmer, who has been working with the Paynes since they started the process, said. “Within the next six months, they started looking for locations in the South Hills.”

With no existing buildings suiting their needs, they opted for new construction in Peters, across Crosswinds Drive from the McDowell Shops.

“I think the Wexford location was the second ground-up build that Goldfish ever did, and this is the third or fourth,” Palmer said. “It’s much more expensive to do it that way, of course. But the flipside is that you get it exactly the way you want it.”

If visitors don’t get the opportunity beforehand, they can check out the new location during a June 2 grand opening celebration. Goldfish also hosts family swims for $5 per person at certain times during the week.

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