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Monticello Community Education has a summer of swimming like never before

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This summer’s swimming lessons at the Monticello Middle School have been set a part from every other in the past. The Monticello Community Education program has worked so hard to stay consistent and affordable for locals who are wanting to learn to swim.

This summer the program has learned to roll with the punches and adjust to anything new thrown their way. This summer they’ve had to make a lot of changes due to COVID-19.

Kristin Zalec does the scheduling and coordinating. She has been able to watch the program grow over the years.

Zalec said that the popularity of the Community Education swimming program has been booming since Candy Benoit built the program and has comntinued to do whatever it takes to improve.

“Our reputation has been built on years and years of quality swimming teachers and affordable teachers,” Zalec said.

Zalec recalled that Duane Gates when he was the Community Education Director he always wanted everyone to be able to participate in swimming lessons.

“He had this philosophy that swimming lessons are something important to everyone and it wasn’t something that Community Education needed to make money off of,” Zalec said. “The lessons were always run with most levels at the same time to accommodate families traveling and just for convenience.”

The lessons are always affordable and Zalec said that new Community Education Director Jeremiah Mack holds onto that same philosiphy to this day.

Swimming lessons will be taking place in the following weeks starting Monday, July 27 until Friday, August 14.

Community Education has families come from all over the area: Hanover, Clearwater, Buffalo, Becker,

Elk River, etc.

“I coordinate the teachers and schedule private lessons, etc,” Zalec said. “ My teachers are high school and college students, many from our swimming program here in Monti, most took lessons here themselves, and some even have parents who taught lessons for us as well.”

Zalec was a teacher at the pool 20 years ago and she saw how Benoit ran things.

“I try to keep up with that expectation of quality when I teach my teachers our expectations as a facility,” Zalec said.

Community Education often has many teachers returning year after year and they get better at their job with every experience they have.

“I’m proud to say our teachers are the reason our program is highly sought after by families in Monticello and the surrounding area,” Zalec said.

This year has been one for the books. Zalec has seen everything imaginable and yet this year takes the cake for most out of the ordinary. COVID-19 has forced every lessons to be torn open and reevaluated for safety precautions.

“As far as this summer, it is very different,” Zalec said.

Swimming instructors are learnng with every opportunity to teach parents to assist their children in the water.

“We used to only have parents in the water for parent/child lessons, but now we have to have parents assist in the water with Preschool/Level 1 classes as well,” Zalec said.

Zalec explains to parents on the first day that it’s their job to model behaviors for their children and model joy in the water, joining their child putting their face and hair in the water. Parents already have the trust of their child, so that’s a step we don’t have to overcome, but parents also have to push their child beyond their comfort zone, which is hard to teach.

“Our priority in lessons is to demonstrate, explain, and have fun while learning,” Zalec said.

Every lesson is planned out a head of time. And there’s no “free time” during lessons.

“We try to be as efficient as possible, especially this summer because we have cut our 50 minute, 10 session lessons to 25 minute lessons for 8 sessions,” Zalec said. “We have moved our numbers from a max of 10 to a max of 4 and things have been going very well.”

They are requiring social distancing in the commons area and guiding swimmers into the pool area one class at a time. Parents are waiting out in the hallway or in their cars and the balcony is closed.

Other precautions: locker rooms are closed and parents should bring their swimmers with their suits on. There are bathrooms open, just no showers.

Time slots are still available for all ages.

Lessons run every half hour between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., as well as 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“I am still scheduling private lessons but we still require parents in the water to assist if the child is not independent, so “private” lessons are not the same either, but some parents choose to do this for more 1 on 1 instruction,” Zalec said.

Classes available:

Level 2 – Fundamental Aquatic Skills–B5

Level 3 – Stroke Development–B5

Level 4 – Stroke Improvement–B5

Level 5 – Stroke REfinement–B5

Level 6+ – Fitness Swimming and Lifeguarding Skills–B5

Monticello Summer Diving Camp – Grades 5-11

Parent and Child Aquatics – Ages 6 months–3 and a half years–B5

Preschool/Level 1 – Introduction to Water Skills–B5

You can register at

Reach Jessie Meyen at

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