LEWISTON — After a middle school student drowned June 12 during a school field trip, the Lewiston School Department made an immediate decision to update its field trip policies.
The school department’s law firm, Brann & Isaacson, conducted an investigation and released its findings in two parts.
According to the report, Issa was in the water at Range Pond State Park in Poland at about 11 a.m., playing football with friends, when he went under the water and did not come back up.
Part 1 of the report said none of the chaperones or the lifeguard saw Issa struggling in the water.
Part 2 of the report, an in-depth outline of suggested changes and “best practices” the school department should add to its water-related field trip policies, was released Tuesday.
“According to the (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years,” the report said.
The suggested best practices covered several water-based activities, including swimming in lakes or pools; boating activities, such as canoeing or kayaking; traveling by boat; and precautions for water parks.
Guidelines from Scouting handbooks, the YMCA and consultation with Carrie Bonnefond of Lighthouse Health and Safety were used when crafting the safety recommendations.
According to the report, risk levels and best practices vary depending on the location and nature of a water-related activity.
The biggest emphasis was on proper supervision by trained lifeguards and adult monitors.
“Although Maine law does not set standards for lifeguard coverage at public pools and beaches, rules adopted for public swimming areas in some other states recommend a minimum of one lifeguard for every 25 swimmers in the water,” the report reads.
Range Pond State Park had only a single lifeguard on duty during the June 12 field trip.
The report suggested the school department might need to contract with its own certified lifeguards.
“It is also recommended that one or more adult chaperones be designated as lookouts or watchers to observe students in the water and help to alert lifeguards if there are any issues,” the report reads.
Beyond supervision, the report suggested field trip participants be required to demonstrate swimming competency before being allowed to swim.
The report advised evaluations of swimming competency be conducted by certified lifeguards.
Based on water-competency testing, the report said, participants can be divided into either two or three classifications.
Under a two-tier system, that would mean a form of identification allowing either shallow-water or deep-water activity.
Using a three-tier system, students would be identified as swimmers, beginners or nonswimmers.
“If it is not possible to administer water-competency testing,” the report said, “those not taking the test should be considered nonswimmers.”
Safety orientations, buddy and safety check systems, life jackets or personal flotation devices were also recommended as integral parts of water-related field trip practices.
The report suggested all permission slips include detailed information for parents about the specific activities involved in the field trips, the risks associated with those activities and a description of the safety steps and precautions that will be used.