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Swim Instructors Tout Water Safety As Summer Nears

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At the Parrotfish Swim School in Sterling, Va., 5-year-old Jason jumps into the deep end and floats on his back like a pro. His older brother, Alex Monsalve, says aside from obvious safety benefits, Jason is also learning to love water.

"He loves coming to class. He knows when it's Tuesday and Thursday and he's like, 'I'm ready to go to class,'" Monsalve says.

Dan Dakus runs Parrotfish Swim School in Sterling, Virginia. He says he used to be shocked by how many school-age children came to him not knowing how to swim, but now, he expects it.

"It really should alarm people," says Dakus. "You have to understand in the year 2000 the World Health Organization deemed drowning a worldwide epidemic."

Dakus says many schools offer financial aid for for swim lessons.

"Not having money is not a good reason for your child not to be in a swim class.," says Dakus. Many national foundations will also help parents pay for swim lessons, he adds.

When he does get a student that has never been in the water, he realizes that sometimes, he has to take it slow.

The worst thing a parent can do is expect results from swim lessons if their child is scared of the water, says Dakus.

"If your child's afraid, that needs to be addressed first," says Dakus. "Nothing is going to happen until that's addressed. They're not on your schedule, they're on their schedule."

Even though it might not be the best for his business, Dakus says if he gets a student that isn't ready, he refunds their tuition. He asks for a $20 insurance fee instead, so the child can come to the pool, play in the water and get used to things before being put through the paces.

Dakus also warns that enrolling your child in swim class doesn't make them, as he puts it, 'drown proof'.

"Parents think that when their children are taking swim lessons that 'waterproofs them'," he says. "That's the label people like to throw around or that they're 'water safe'. No one's water safe," advises Dakus.

Dakus urges parents to watch children very closely in the water regardless of their swimming skill level, and whether or not there's a lifeguard on duty.

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