JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Child drownings have become all too common here on the First Coast.
In the month of June alone, there have been four reported drownings in our area. Most recently a 4-year-old drowned in a pool in Keystone Heights.
Two weeks ago, First Coast News told you about a proposed bill that would secure taxpayer money to give kids in Duval County free swimming lessons. However, the measure was withdrawn Tuesday night.
Council member Garrett Dennis proposed the free swimming lessons bill. It would have paid for free swimming lessons for 6,000 kids and cost taxpayers $200,000. While Dennis is disappointed, he firmly believes an upcoming initiative from Mayor Lenny Curry could have an even bigger impact.
Sarah Carver watches her son, nieces and nephews all summer, which of course means plenty of trips to the pool. Under Carver's watchful eye, the kids splash around wearing life vests. That's because all but one of them knows how to swim.
"It's pretty upsetting especially as a parent," Carver said.
That upsetting moment for Carver came when the Jacksonville City Council did not approve the bill that would have paid for free swimming lessons for kids age 3 to 17.
"Obviously, the children aren't important, that's how they make it seem," Carver said.
For Carver, the free lessons just make sense especially with all the recent drownings involving children.
"Especially when it could be prevented, so yeah it's something that should be addressed and they should uphold on," Carver said.
Council member Garrett Dennis said city council voting down his bill sends an unfortunate message.
"It's disappointing because what does it say to the taxpayers, it says to the taxpayers that our priorities aren't on kids," Dennis said.
Dennis said he has renewed optimism next time around. That's because Mayor Curry will be putting a line item in next year's budget for free swimming lessons for kids year round.
Dennis firmly believes with the mayor's leadership, the bill could have even larger impact.
"I'm thinking 10,000 kids, 15,0000 kids, haven't seen the details, but knowing the Mayor and how much he loves Jacksonville and loves kids, I can see him rolling out a plan to have free swimming lessons for 15,000 kids here in Duval County," Dennis said.
Carver says she would take fill advantage of free lessons for the kids she cares for.
"Absolutely, who wouldn't want something if it's there for them and it's beneficial," Dennis said.
Dennis said to expect the mayor to announce the free lesson initiative July 17 when the budget is presented to city council.
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