All first-grade students in Waldo County will have the opportunity to learn swimming safety in a new pilot program at the Waldo County YMCA.

During the fundraising campaign for the Tom and Sally Savage Pool Complex, a promise was made to the community that there would be a “First-Graders for Free” swim program, according to Sue Lapham of the YMCA.

The free program began March 29 with first-grade students from Captain Albert Stevens Elementary School, and eventually each first-grader in the county will have a chance to be part of the program.

With the area’s close proximity to the coast and dangerous conditions that come with it, Lapham said it is important to give children these skills at the earliest age possible. The Y decided to focus on first-graders because they are developmentally at the right age to learn the skills, whereas kindergarteners, for example, might not be as attentive.

Students will attend the program once a week for eight weeks, either on Mondays or Fridays.