By DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer

The Rome school district will test the waters with changes to swimming course requirements on a trial basis, in hopes of relieving concerns by some students and parents including potential impacts on graduating.

Among changes, on a trial/"pilot" basis, will be summer-school and after-school swimming sessions, same-gender classes, and an option to "test out" of the course after nine weeks, Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons told the Board of Education Wednesday night. Classes are at Rome Free Academy’s pool.

The proposed moves for the next school year were part of a recent presentation by physical education staffers to the board’s policy committee, said committee chair Amanda Cortese. The presentation also involved overall phys ed grading policy topics, but with proposals for alternatives "mainly to swimming" requirements, she added.

District students must pass a beginners’ swim course as a minimum in order to graduate, which is a district requirement and not a state mandate. The board committee has been considering changes in the policy, based on concerns about students who may not meet requirements because of such factors as a fear of water or reluctance to wear swimsuits in the co-ed classes.

At least a dozen concerns are expressed every year, and some parents would like the policy changed, Simons has said. He also has noted instances when students have not graduated because they did not participate in the course.

Advantages of summer-school or after-school swim classes could include reducing "the number of kids in the pool," Simons noted, and students who "may be more self-conscious" about the issue could "be more inclined to participate." Same-gender classes could generate similar results, he added.

Under the "test-out" option that will be tried, students would fulfill their "pool requirement" after nine weeks of pool instruction if in the 10th week they pass a swimming test; test examples could include treading water for three minutes, and swimming a distance using three basic strokes.

The district’s swim course requirements have dated back at least to the opening of the new RFA building and its pool about 10 years ago, Simons has said.