SCHENCTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local school district is making waves with its emphasis on teaching students a life skill, both during the school day and after the last bell rings.

When the Schenectady City School District first announced it would be hosting a free learn-to-swim program, the turnout was overwhelming. Hundreds of families signed up their kids.

“The demand was high, but we were able to fit everybody in,” said Aquatics Director Brian Melanson, “we are still getting people trickling in, which is great.”

Toward the end of September, Melanson was trying to figure out how he’d meet the massive demand for swim lessons: More than 400 sign-ups for a program that was originally supposed to accommodate about 50 students at a time.

The program, now in its fifth week, is about to welcome a new set of swimmers for a second session. Melanson’s been fielding calls from school officials all over New York State who want to replicate his program, often asking how he got so many people interesting in signing up.

Turns out, there’s no shortage of parents in Schenectady who are attracted to an affordable, convenient way to prepare their kids for any aquatic scenario.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to be able to provide lessons for my kids for the most part, but it’s not easy, and times are tough, especially now,” said Schenectady parent Jana Boettner, “so this opportunity for all those kids, building that life skill that could save their life or somebody else’s life, is foundational.”

Marianne Clifford jumped at the opportunity to sign up her Schenectady first grader.

“We actually had a pool scare last year. It was downright frightening for her and myself, and it really opened my eyes on how important it is that we had to, very quickly, get her to have the confidence to be in the water,” said Clifford, adding that her daughter is thriving in the pool, and enjoying the opportunity to take lessons.

It’s not just after school when students are getting their reps in at the pool. This year, swimming has been integrated into the district’s third grade curriculum, where each week, a different third grade class gets to jump in the high school pool to learn swimming skills and have some fun.

Parents in Schenectady can continue signing up their kids for lessons. Those who are interested should contact Brian Melanson by e-mailing