York swimmer does backstroke in the York swimming pool.

Photo courtesy of SR Photo

Taking the plunge: Why York should provide an option of testing out of the swim unit in P.E.

March 15, 2019

Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for nine weeks, freshman and sophomores submerge themselves in the frigid swimming pool of York High School. Prior to jumping in, around 10 minutes are spent changing and five minutes are spent awkwardly sitting on a cold bench next to your peers. This routine repeats similarly after you get out of the pool, except this time the girls receive around 15 minutes to get changed and the boys get even less, with only 10 minutes in their designated locker room.

Many students feel the swimming requirement is just plain unnecessary. Students in every level are required to swim with no way of testing out. P.E. Department Chair Lauren DeAngelis, a York alumnus, assures it has always been this way.

“You’ve never been able to test out, we’ve just varied the different skill levels,” DeAngelis said.

With many people in class being on the swim team, a lot of complaints have been that swim team members are being subjected to strokes and techniques they already know.

“I’m fine with [swimming],” freshman Julia Beltran, a swim team member, said. “But if you show that you know all the safety aspects of it, and you can swim efficiently, then I think you should be able to test out of it.”  

The purpose of swimming and why it’s required has always been questioned, but DeAngelis regards it as a necessary life skill.

“A lot of the students that think they know how to swim don’t actually have the proper mechanics,” DeAngelis said. “We progress [to] make the students aware of all these different activities that you can be active with. At least you know, hopefully, [how to] swim and be safe in the water.”

Like all teachers, DeAngelis translates the skills her department teaches to life outside of high school and learning to be open to new things.

“At some point, you’re going to find something you really don’t like and then you don’t do it,” DeAngelis said.

On the other side of the country, Hewlett High School in Hewlett, NY offers the option to test out of swim; they give two ways to do this. One way is by presenting a Red Cross level 5 certification or higher and presenting certification of a Red Cross lifeguard training course. The other way you can test out is through a swim test that is only given once a year. It requires you to successfully pass the level 5 swim test as administered by the teachers.

A little closer to home, in Lincolnshire, Illinois, Stevenson High School allows a similar test out option. Students are required to test in freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, elementary backstroke and see how long they can swim submerged underwater. However, if students don’t pass, Stevenson requires three to six weeks of swimming depending on personal need and skill level.

With multiple schools offering this option of testing out, York shouldn’t feel the need to uphold the requirement and should feel open to adopting the new option that many schools already have. Offering the option of testing out and then leaving it up to the students to decide whether to participate in swim class or not (if they’ve passed the test) doesn’t seem like an impossible task so York should be open to hearing out the students’ requests. Rather than swimming, those kids who tested out could be offered the option of a P.E. elective or just returning to P.E. if they choose.

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