Goldfish Swim School has more than 80 locations around the country, including across 26 states and Canada. Currently, there are two locations in central Ohio (Dublin and Westerville), but there will soon be a third when the Lewis Center location opens on Monday, July 9, on Green Meadows Drive.
Lisa Armitage, owner of the three central Ohio locations, said the expansion to Lewis Center was an easy decision, given the demand.
“We had so many families driving to Dublin and Westerville from Lewis Center … we basically had people telling us nonstop that we needed to bring it up there,” she said. “We’ve spent plenty of time in Lewis Center. We love it up there and have friends who live there. We knew that it would be a great place. But it was driven completely by customers.”
Goldfish offers the opportunity for swim lessons year-round with a building that is built specifically for child swim lessons. Armitage said the pool is 4-feet deep, and there are no other activities held there besides the swim lessons. In addition, the pool remains at 90 degrees year-round, and there are snack shacks and a Treasure Island Pro Shop that features all the swimming gear a child may need. The facility also features hair drying stations, swimsuit dryers, showers and private changing rooms.
Lessons are offered to children as young as 4 months old, when a child gains independent head and neck control, and typically has students as old as 12 or 13 years of age, although Armitage said they would never turn down anyone in need of swim lessons. A student’s ability to move up through the programs is solely based on their abilities, and not their age.
“For a lot of families, it’s great because they don’t feel like their child is going to be stifled if they are proficient at swimming,” she said. “But they are also comfortable if they have a 10-, 11- or 12-year-old that doesn’t know how to swim. We can accommodate that, and teach them how to swim. We’re really able to service both ends of the spectrum in terms of age and ability.”
Regardless of a student’s age or proficiency, safety is built into every curriculum and is the most important aspect of every lesson at Goldfish.
“It’s the most important thing you can do for your children in terms of safety and prevention,” Armitage said. “Water is everywhere — rivers, lakes, streams and bathtubs. They’re never 100 percent safe, but it’s so important for them to be as safe as possible.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 4,000 people die from drowning each year. In children ages 1-4, drowning is responsible for more deaths than any cause other than birth defects. Among children ages 1-14, it is the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths behind motor vehicle crashes. Armitage warned that water safety isn’t just a summer worry, pointing out the dangers of playing on or around ice.
The Goldfish staff goes through 40 hours of hands-on training in the water, going through the curriculum. In addition, there are ongoing workshops each month that focus on a variety of skills, including how to work with children who may have unique needs. Every staff member, regardless of whether they will work in the water or not, must be lifeguard trained, as well as in first aid, CPR and AED. Armitage said it has been instilled in every manager to not hire anyone they wouldn’t trust at home, alone, with their own kids.
Knowing the amount of training put into her staff, Armitage is comfortable saying Goldfish Swim School is a superior outlet for swim education compared to more standard swim lessons. In addition to the thorough training, she said the flexibility of the programs also make the school stand out.
For busy and ever-changing schedules, Goldfish offers perpetual scheduling rather than predetermined dates and times that are typical of standard swim lessons. If needed, parents can simply notify the school and it will work to find a different time and date to hold the lesson. In addition to the flexible scheduling, Goldfish offers monthly payments rather than lumping all fees together into a large sum that must be paid ahead of the classes.
Goldfish utilizes the “Science of SwimPlay,” a system that combines its proven curriculum with play and fun. Armitage pointed out she believes that’s how children learn best, and the staff works hard to incorporate fun into every lesson in order to keep the children engaged.
The classes are also kept at a 4:1 children to instructor ratio in order to ensure each child is getting the proper attention.
“You can’t possibly work with 12 four-year-olds in a class and expect them to get enough engagement and participation,” she stated. “We’ve found that four is the magic number. They have buddies to giggle and play with, but there’s still enough time for them to get a lot of one-on-one, individual attention.”
Armitage said with the demand and chatter from customers about opening a school in their location, she is always eyeing the next potential area. But for now, she is excited to be part of the Lewis Center community.
“It’s been so fun seeing the warm welcome we’ve received,” she said. “We’re really excited to be able to teach more kids how to be safe in or around the water. That’s what we do, that’s what our core business is. We’re just excited to be able to reach another part of Columbus and get out there and work with all the families.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.