FARMINGTON – After a long but unsuccessful search for a water safety instructor, Farmington Recreation Department has needed to change one popular summer swim program.

Beginning June 22, the department does not have a certified water safety instructor for the Sumner P. Mills program, director Steve Shible said. The classes, for ages 5-18, have been held in the Recreation and Fitness Center at the University of Maine at Farmington for several years.

The instructor for the last two years intended to return for this summer but then in April realized a need to relocate, which left Shible searching for a replacement.

After checking with the college Fitness Center and the Red Cross about instructors, advertisements for the position didn’t produce a response either, he said.

Two additional half-hour sessions for older students who are starting to learn to swim, levels one and two, will be offered at the town’s wading pool this summer but the options for continued swim instruction apparently will not be available this year. The program serves an average of 65 to 75 students each year.

This is the first year the program has not had an instructor. One year there were four, Shible said.

“But we couldn’t put it in the hands of an unqualified person,” he said.

Shible also contacted Frank Donald, Wilton’s Parks and Recreation director, about Farmington swim students joining their program at Kineowatha Park.

With one water safety instructor and four previous students who are currently training for their water safety instruction certification, Donald said his program should be fine and felt he could take on 20 to 30 Farmington students and maybe more.

He’s been getting calls from Farmington residents, but some are concerned about the commute each day, he said. The Wilton program is a half hour lesson on Monday through Thursday and runs for six weeks.

The water safety instructor is certified to teach according to American Red Cross standards with assistants or water safety assistants who can teach under the instructor’s supervision, he said.

It’s really odd, said Brad Rounds, health and safety director for the American Red Cross in Lewiston. In the seven counties served by his office, there are approximately 375 qualified water safety instructors but some years he receives calls from employers looking for instructors while other years, he gets calls from “droves of WSIs asking us to provide their information to any potential employers,” he said. It’s seldom both in one year.

Contrary to what he expected this year with the economy the way it is, no water safety instructor has contacted his office looking for placement this spring.

To become a water safety instructor, there is a 40-hour course and participants need to be at least 16 years old and show a mastery of certain swim strokes.

“The course doesn’t have time to teach swimming but trains to teach swimming,” he said. “It’s a significant commitment.”

Shible remains hopeful that more instructors will be available for another year.

Registrations for Farmington’s Wading Pool program and the half-hour Sumner P. Mills sessions for starting swimmers begins at 9 a.m. on June 15 at the Community Center.

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