Before Laura Zylinski Batyr was a Southold Junior-Senior High School English teacher, she was a charter boat captain in Newport, R.I. And having grown up in Oyster Bay, she has had a lifelong passion for boating.
That’s why she wants students whose hometown is surrounded by water to have a chance to learn about boating and become well-trained and responsible users of watercraft.
With the support of school officials, she contacted the United States Power Squadron at its national office, suggesting that one of the squadron’s safe-boating classes be added to the school curriculum. The organization agreed, tapped her to teach it, and last Thursday she saw her first 14 students pass their competency test. They received Power Squadron certificates permitting them to operate power vessels up to 65 feet in length once they are at least 14.
The new boating course is part of the school’s effort to offer elective courses during study hall periods, said principal William Galati. It’s also an outgrowth of a middle school initiative to pay more attention to seventh- and eighth-graders as they make the transition from elementary to high school.
All of this year’s students passed a written exam with a score of 80 or better. “It’s been a tremendous benefit,” Mr. Galati said about the safe-boating course, in which students could get either a pass or fail grade. Obviously, everyone passed.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Lily Saeli, 13, a seventh-grader. Because her mother is afraid of the water, she never had a chance to get into boating before, she said.
“On Long Island, you’re always around the water, and it’s beneficial to have a certificate that qualifies you to operate a boat,” said Steven Amato, 14, an eighth-grader.
There are not only a lot of boats in this area, but also a lot of jobs tied to boating, commented Michael Cosmadelis, 13, an eighth-grader.
For 12-year-old Ronan Guyer, a seventh-grader, the course was about getting another certificate that might serve him well in the future, he said.
With the demands of their classes and extracurricular activities, students have little time to add another program, Mr. Galati said. But because the course was given during study hall periods, students were able to take the time for it during the school day, he said.
The safe-boating course — incorporating mathematics, social studies, English Language Arts and health — dovetails with what students are learning in other classes, he said.
Ms. Batyr explained that learning about charting and plotting courses requires skills and knowledge the students have been learning in math.
If the program continues next fall — 22 students have already indicated an interest in taking it — she wants to incorporate a field trip to get the students out on the water.
“Just remember,” Long Island Power Squadron District 3 Cmdr. John Sanfilippo told the students as he gave them their certificates last Thursday, “only about 10 percent of boaters are currently certified.” He warned them to be cautious on the water to avoid accidents with those who aren’t so well trained.