Changes made in town pool policies at MHS

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Jan. 17, 2013

Earlier this month, state Rep. Stephen Dargan (D-115) of West Haven introduced a bill that would establish a uniform, state-wide policy for pool safety at public schools “so as to reduce the loss of life or injury related to swimming at public schools.” This bill was created in direct response to two tragedies that shook the neighboring towns of East Hartford and Manchester in 2012.

On Jan. 11, 2012, freshman Marcum Asiamah drowned in the East Hartford High School pool during gym class. Acting just over a year after the drowning, the town recently approved a $1.5 million settlement between the board of education and Asiamah's estate. On Nov. 21, 2012, Malvrick Donkor of Manchester High School, who was also a freshman, and, like Asiamah, was originally from Ghana, drowned during his gym class.

The pool at Manchester High School, which is used by the Park & Recreation Department as the town pool, was closed following the accident, as state and local officials investigated the incident. It was reopened for Park & Recreation use on Dec. 19. Kathleen McGuire, recreation supervisor at the Park and Recreation Department, said that there are no changes in policy going forward for the town’s aquatic programs, which include swimming lessons, open swim time, and aquatic exercise classes.

According to McGuire, they have always followed standards set by the aquatic industry, including having certified lifeguards on duty, and employing swim instructors certified by the American Red Cross with several years of experience. “And while we have swimming lessons going on, we have lifeguards in the area, so we're watching the water and instructing,” said McGuire.

Manchester public schools, however, are enacting two changes in policy.

“We've always had a trained lifeguard on duty,” said interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Kisiel. “But in addition to that, we want one other adult on the pool deck at all times.” In addition, they are requiring that all students pass a swimming test, which the school will keep a record of, before they are allowed in the deep end of the pool.

Additionally, the pool now has a new lifeguard chair, which was installed following an inspection of the pool after Donkor's death by the state Department of Health, which indicated that they wanted the chair installed, said Kisiel.

These policies will be required of all school aquatic programs or classes as well as the Manchester Swim Club, which rents the facility from the school. Should any other organization rent time at the pool, they would be held to the same requirements as well.

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