Commissioners for Hillsborough County will provide the funds to give an extra 700 children free swim lessons after 11 deaths in 2018 gave it the highest drowning rate in the state.

Free swimming lessons will be made available to an extra 700 children this year as Hillsborough County officials hope to counter a recent spike in the number of the children drowning.

Hillsborough County commissioners last week agreed to increase the funding for a swim safety program by $50,000 to cover swim lessons and transportation costs for every child enrolled in Head Start, a federal program that provides education, health and family support services to pre-school children.

The county is also stepping up inspections of pools in apartment complexes to ensure they are equipped with safety equipment.

The focus on drownings comes after a Tampa Bay Times report highlighted that 11 children drowned in Hillsborough in 2018, the highest number in the state and more than the two previous years combined.

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