BARRIE, ONT. -- The demand to get children into swimming lessons increased after Ontario gave the green light to resume teaching the lifesaving skill.

"We're close to almost over 500 registrations," said Ross Johnston, owner of Big Splash Swimming Academy. "We are excited to open, but at the same time, we are trying to accommodate as many young children as possible."

Janna Whitfield paid for private lessons at a friend's pool for her two children, three and five years old, to learn basic skills.

"When I was a kid, I could swim by their age," she said.

For months recreational centres have been closed, and public safety protocols restricted visiting friends, contributing factors to her children falling behind, as far as Whitfield is concerned.

"I think because they've had such a big gap where they haven't been able to swim in the pool, they don't have the skillset," the Barrie mom added.

So far this year, there have been 42 drownings across the province.

Barbara Byers, with the Lifesaving Society, also points to the pandemic for many people lacking the skills to swim.

"We hope in the fall when all the rec programs start up again, parents will be more determined to put their kids in swimming lessons," Byers said.

Businesses like Big Splash Swimming Academy are also dealing with staffing issues as the demand for lessons ramps up.


On Wednesday, the City of Orillia put out a call for both lifeguards and swim instructors.

The city announced its offering opportunities for individuals 16 and older paid training to become certified lifeguards.

Interested individuals can submit an application online by July 30 to receive an interview.

Successfully trained participants will be offered a contract for a Lifeguard/Instructor position with the city at a starting wage of $17.26 per hour.

"To start, all you need is a love for the water and the ability to swim. Everything else we will teach you during the paid training," said Christine Wareing, aquatics and fitness supervisor.

Complete information on the program and how to apply is available here.

With files from CTV's Kim Phillips