The calendar reads May, although the erratic weather has been speaking more of January or March at times. But in Murray it's July - at least for 600 elementary school kids.

Once a week, Murray School District buses every third-grader to Murray High School for swimming lessons. With a total student enrollment of only 5,000 students, tiny Murray School District finds that it can offer programs to its students that the mammoth districts would find a logistical nightmare.For more than a decade, the district, in cooperation with Murray City, has offered a water safety program for every third-grader. In a similar arrangement, it also offers ice-skating lessons to fifth- and sixth-grade students.

With swimming, the district's goal is to teach every child the water-safety basics. "The idea is to help every kid know how to take care of himself in the water. If he falls into a pool or pond, at least he'll know how to tread water and keep his cool until help arrives," said Judith Crocker, Murray community education director.

That is not always as easy as it sounds. While most kids have enjoyed swimming and pool splashing before they take the district lessons, every year there are usually a few who haven't even ventured as far as sticking a big toe in the water.

Worried mothers have been known to send explicit notes to teachers with the main message being "Please take special care of my child."

Darlene Wood, the head swimming teacher, tries to do just that by starting with such fundamentals as putting faces in the water and blowing bubbles.

"Normally, even the beginning, beginners can swim across the pool by the time they've completed the seven-week course," she said.

The third-grade teachers find the lessons also teach the children something besides dog paddling and diving. "They learn a little bit about personal responsibility when they have to take care of their own belongings," said Darlene Maxfield, Horizon Elementary School, as she waited for her class to finish lessons.

And as if to prove her point, one young fellow darted out from the locker room to complain about a lost shoe. He later found it hiding under a bench beside the pool.

The children, as would be expected, love the weekly chance to trade textbooks for the pool.

Nine-year-old Darren McDonald, who was practicing back floating, said he likes everything about his half-hour lesson, except jumping off the diving board.

LeeAnn Terry, 9, spoke for her giggling classmates when she added her assessment: "It's a lot more fun that recess."