FOXBORO — Greg Spier wants all Foxboro kids to learn water safety by second grade.
And he wants the lessons to be free, just as they were when his mother, Sonja Spier, 86, learned to swim as a little girl in New York, thanks to a scholarship to a YMCA.
Last week, School Superintendent Debra Spinelli and Ed Hurley, president of the Hockomock Area YMCA, announced what amounts to hundreds of such scholarships.
The Spier Program for Lifelong Aquatic Safety and Health is set to start next month.
“Through the generosity of the Spier family, the SPLASH program aims to provide free swimming lessons to all first- and second-grade students in the Foxboro Public Schools,” Spinelli wrote in a memo.
Igo Elementary School kids in those grades will be the first into the pool in January.
Students at the remaining two elementary schools will be offered the same opportunity for swim lessons in sessions starting Feb. 23 and April 13.
“We think every young person is at risk if they don’t know how to swim,” said Hurley, who joined Greg Spier and local Y director Patrick C. Murphy in a presentation to the school committee.
Drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death of children 14 and younger, traffic accidents being the first, Hurley said.
The lessons will be be offered after school, not during the regular school day.
Parents will be responsible for taking their children. Information on sign ups will be provided by the schools.
Major donations by the Spier family allowed the Foxboro YMCA to open an indoor pool six years ago and an outdoor pool three years ago. A local businessman and Foxboro resident, Greg Spier is on the Y board of directors.
Spier read aloud two letters penned by his parents.
“Swimming is something that I think all children need to learn, so that they can begin a lifetime of safety and enjoyment in the water,” Sonja wrote, in part.
Alex Spier, who learned to swim in Holland as a boy in that lowland of water-holding dikes, wrote that he and his wife, Sonja, and their children Greg and Kathy are proud of their association with the Y and Foxboro Public Schools.
“Providing swim lessons to all first- and second-graders is a natural progression of this same family commitment to youth and families in Foxboro.”
Hurley said he hopes the pilot program can, in time, be expanded to other local schools and to other YMCAs.
“Each year seems to bring a new and innovative partnership with our local YMCA, and this year is no exception,” Spinelli said. “From healthy living to nutrition education to integration initiatives to raising awareness about child sexual abuse, all of the YMCA program demonstrate the Y’s unwavering commitment to enriching our community and the lives of our children.”
Spinelli said Foxboro schools are “endlessly grateful for their ongoing partnership with our schools.”