Mayor Mandates All Swim Units to Take Place in River, Adds Required River Hours
by Alex Barnes
Recent efforts to clean the Chicago River have not been easy. Beginning in the summer of 2016, the city has channeled funding into water purifying infrastructure, aiming for a litter-free and even swimmable environment. Due to its horrifying reputation, this premise has met little but laughs.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a strong supporter of this plan and of river swimming, has been incredibly frustrated by this unenthusiastic response. To better introduce the idea of river recreation to Chicagoans, the mayor has decided to facilitate more interactions between CPS students and the area.
This will take several forms. It will begin in grade school, where classes will be required to take a yearly field trip to the river, observing the environment and performing experiments, such as water purification tests. Next, all high school students will also be required to fulfill at least 20 “River Hours” before graduating. Finally, all required swim units included in Physical Education classes will take place in the river.
“River Hours,” Emanuel’s most recent brain child, are units for measuring required time spent with the river. Options for this time include swimming, kayaking, drinking, gargling, sketching, salinating and then desalinating, sniffing, splashing, or simply observing the river. Hours must be logged and confirmed, similarly to service hours. The form to log hours will be available in the counseling office and can be signed by any teacher, counselor, river administrator, or environmentally appropriate fauna. Whoever signs the sheet must have observed at least part of the river session, and must provide a signature or paw/foot/fin print.
Swim units taking place in the river should be a very minor adjustment for students. Safety procedures, such as roping off designated swimming sections, will be strictly followed to inhibit any students from drifting away. Further, the curriculum will be adjusted to match the new facilities; skills like treading water, survival strokes, leech removal, and water borne illness identification will be emphasized. As an additional benefit of this plan, it has been hinted at that lucky students who manage to catch one such illness will be able to serve as test subjects for schools (like Northside) that offer Infectious Diseases or Advanced Biology courses.
Northside has been anticipating these changes and will not miss a beat. “We will be officially moving the swim unit to the Chicago River. We will be using lifejackets and practicing our lifesaving skills as well,” said Ms. Cirrincione, Physical Education Department. “As the saying goes, it is sink or swim,” said Carlos Ceja, who coaches aquatic sports. He is also very happy about the switch and its effect on his teams, saying, “Thank goodness. We can finally keep the pool clean. When the water gets too cloudy from all the PE classes in the pool, we have to cancel practice, and as everyone knows, I hate to cancel practice. ”
Unfortunately, not everyone is excited about the plan. Alexander Stec, Adv. 803, said, “Give me a hazmat suit and I will jump in,” and Mason Sotomayor, Adv. 802, said, “There is more disease than there is water.” Unfortunately, Northside does not have the budget to purchase hazmat suits at the moment, so this suggestion will remain unmet.
This plan is intended to have long term effects, as those who build a strong relationship with the river in their youth have been statistically shown to litter less, donate more to environmental organizations, and volunteer more often. Emmanuel and his administration are confident that CPS students will adjust and learn to appreciate this change--learning lessons about physical health and the environment. This is a step towards a greener Chicago, a greener CPS community, and a greener river.