Summer is right around the corner, and a new swim school is making its way to Washington County.
Emler Swim School has two new locations under construction in Beaverton and Tualatin. The school currently has locations in Texas and Kansas. The company will open those two Oregon locations in June, according to Emler Swim School chief executive officer Greg Laird.
"Based on the demographic data, (there were) not really enough schools or swim schools to serve what we think the need would be for water safety and swim lessons," Laird said, explaining why the company expanded to Oregon.
The company's mission is to teach water safety to young children from the ages of six months to 9 years old. Laird also cited Portland's outdoor community as another reason for the expansion.
"The community is very similar to markets where we're in currently," he said. "Places like Austin look and smell similar to Portland. There's a kind of cultural fit there … even though it doesn't seem like it on first blush."
After securing their final construction permits last week, the company can now start building its custom 4-foot saltwater pools that are heated at 90-degrees year-round.
Laird said the school also maintains a four-to-one class ratio.
"It's an environment where they feel comfortable and it's safe for them," he added.
The Tualatin location will be located at 19449 S.W. Martinazzi Ave. As site director, Lester Ruiz will be handling the day-to-day operations for that specific location. Ruiz has been with Emler Swim School for eight years and started as a part-time swim instructor with the company.
"My job is not only to ensure that the location is running smoothly, and that I get to meet all of the new customers coming into the door, but a big part of the job and one thing I enjoy is mentorship," said Ruiz while detailing his role.
Along with the new weather and outdoor activities in the Pacific Northwest, Ruiz is also excited to meet new families in the area and make sure kids have a safe place to swim.
"I opened up another location in a market that we had … and one of the things I enjoyed the most was starting that location from the ground up," he said, "because I got to know every single family that was walking through the door as opposed to taking over a location that's already existing."
The Beaverton location will be located at 9140 S.W. Hall Boulevard.
The person who will be overlooking both locations, Portland native Abigail Kempe, grew up in the city's parks and swim program. Kempe was a swim instructor for the city's program 10 years and has experience as a lead instructor.
"My number one role is to support Lester and make sure he has everything that he needs," explained Kempe. Her role extends to supporting other team members throughout their career and jumping in the pool when necessary.
About 40 new employees — directors, full-time managers and teachers — will be hired for both locations, Laird said. The number will also vary depending on student enrollment numbers.
Emler Swim School plans to have a joint grand opening for both locations in early June.
If the locations open earlier than expected, the company plans on providing facility tours or free lessons to introduce themselves to the community. Company officials also hope to reach out others about water safety.
"We will work with parents, school districts and apartment associations about what kind of things they should do around their water areas to keep them safer," Laird said.
He added, "We will also take donations for things like old life jackets and give them to us, and we'll donate those to public or apartment swimming pools that might be understaffed in those areas."
Those precautions can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Laird hopes the school can prevent a parent's worst nightmare around water.
"Child drownings are the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5," he explained. "We have a vision in our head of there being a struggle and splashing and it being noisy and violent — the kind of thing that would put a parent or adult on notice that a child is struggling."
Laird added that child drownings can be more silent than expected. A child will often just slide under the water quietly, not panic and then sink to the bottom.
To prevent drownings at all ages, the school also offers swim lessons for adults.
"Very often, those are more individual or private lessons because it's a very different swim lesson for an adult who's learning to swim, versus a 2- or 3-year-old who's fearless and jumps in," said Laird.
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