GRANDVILLE, Mich. — A woman who has been giving swimming lessons for the past 30 years from the pool in her backyard is being asked to stop by the city after they say they received multiple complaints from neighbors.
Over the last 3 decades 'Ms Rita's Swim Program' has earned quite the reputation for the aggressive style of teaching they use, which parents say gets results.
“We come all the way from Dorr. I mean, people come from all the way up north, all around,” said Heather Nyholt, the parent of a 3-year-old.
Rita Shalhoup started the program when she and several neighbors in the area put in swimming pools.
"So I just went around to all the parents and said I'm afraid one of these kids is going to climb a fence and fall in, and I'm just going to teach all the kids to swim, which I did," Rita told FOX 17 Thursday.
She would later adopt her more aggressive style of teaching after experiencing a personal tragedy.
"My son, I found him drowning in our pool at 3. He got through the gate, unlatched it. I was in the house and he fell in. By the grace of God I found him," Rita said.
After that she realized the importance of teaching young children how to survive in and around water.
"A small child has to be able to get themselves to the side, they have to know how to go underwater because when they fall in their brain shuts down and nothing works,” Rita said.
But this week Rita received a letter from the city of Grandville asking her to stop giving lessons. They say her business, which operates as a home occupation, is in violation of city code.
“We’ve had complaints from a number of residents in the neighborhood that because of all the traffic, they can't get mail, they can’t get garbage picked up, can’t get deliveries,” said Grandville assistant city manager Matthew Butts.
"So we’ve been trying to work with her for a number of years and this year it just ramped up and the neighbors have just had enough and complained to us and asked us to step in,” he said.
An online petition was launched after Rita received the letter from the City, garnering nearly 10,000 signatures in one day.
But parents who have been bringing their kids to lessons hope this isn't the end for Ms Rita.
“My daughter is the kind of kid who doesn’t even like her face wet in the bathtub,” said Heather Nyholt, mother of a 3-year-old daughter.
“Day 1 she was a crying mess, day 4 she is swimming on her own,” she said.
Rita says she is taking additional precautions right now to alleviate any issues for neighbors.
“It's just a short amount of time, 6 to 8 weeks in the summer. Only 16 days of night classes and that's it. So we’re trying to make this work. Because I don’t want kids to drown,” she said.