LEWISTON — Outdoor safety courses such as swimming lessons are being developed by Lewiston Public Schools in response to student drownings.

Superintendent Jake Langlais told the School Committee on Wednesday that one way the district could provide these classes would be by expanding its Maine Guide course.

“We are looking at a way to grow that and maybe grow it downward (to schools other than the high school),” Langlais said.

He said learning to swim, knowing how river water flows and the danger of cold water are essential lessons in a city connected to a waterway.

“The tragic loss of a student one day after school got out was very difficult for our community,” he said. “In fact, we’ve lost two students to water-related events.”

Isha Ali, a 13-year-old middle schooler, died after going underwater in the Androscoggin River on June 7. Authorities said she wasn’t wearing a life jacket and did not know how to swim.


On June 12, 2018, Rayan Issa, also 13, drowned in Range Pond in Poland during a school field trip. He also did not know how to swim.

In a memo to the School Committee, Langlais wrote that administrators are in the brainstorming phase and would be coordinating meetings with stakeholders and community resources.

Ideas include:

·       Water safety courses or topics woven into the curriculum.

·       Swimming lessons.

·       Scene safety and hazards.


·       A science fair-like event focusing on topics of outdoor safety.

·       Expanding the Maine Guide program.

·       Informational sessions and pamphlets for families at strategic times.

“We are hopeful to find sustainable ways to grow this knowledge/skill set in our community,” he wrote in the memo. “I am hopeful we can open this up for discussion to continue to gather ideas.”

Committee member Kiernan Majerus-Collins said he fully supported the effort.

“This issue is critically important and as we’ve seen, a matter of life and death,” he said. Every student in Lewiston public schools should learn to swim, he said.


He said the continued closure of the Kennedy Park swimming pool made the situation even more dangerous.

“I can’t even begin to express how angry I am about that,” he said.

He said he hoped the district could work with Bates College to set up courses and should require all middle school students to learn to swim.

New committee member Janet Beaudoin argued that learning to swim should not be a mandate but a personal choice.

“There are lots of things we require students to learn — reading, math, civics,” Majerus-Collins said. “We have a responsibility to provide a meaningful education, especially when we’ve lost two students.”

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