She was taught how to swim by Jan Thomas; now she’s reopening the famous facility for a new generation


CLOVIS, Calif. (KGPE) – The legendary Jan Thomas Swim School in Clovis is reopening…but as the Bullfrog Swim School, and the owner of the school learned how to swim at the Jan Thomas Swim School.

Thomas announced she was selling her property in January.

For decades, the Jan Thomas Swim School taught thousands of kids valley-wide how to swim, including the owner of the new swim school moving in.

“Jan is such a legend, and it’s such huge shoes to fill,” Darla Bartell, owner of Bullfrog Swim School, said.

The Jan Thomas Swim School was open for almost 60 years. It was where Jan and her instructors taught more than 60,000 kids how to swim. Jan retired in 2017, and now, more than two years later, Darla Bartell, one of her former students, is taking over.

“I met Jan 20 years ago at a swim school convention when I had a swim school down south and she was kind of a mentor to me,” Bartell said.

Bartell then came back to Fresno to offer swim lessons, and although they were competitors, Jan and Darla saw each other as friends.

“When I moved to Fresno, I said ‘oh Jan, I feel so bad, we’re gonna be starting swim lessons here and I don’t want to compete with you,’ and she’s like ‘honey, there’s enough swim students for all of us.'”

On their Facebook page, the Bullfrog Swim School shared a video of Jan and her daughter Becky giving Darla the thumbs up.

“You got this Darla, I know you can do it,” Thomas says in the video.

The Bullfrog Swim School is known for giving people lessons at their homes, but now, they’ll also have their own location.

“Putting up the sign was a little bit of a double-edged sword. I was so excited like ‘oh my gosh, we finally have our own place, here’s the sign,’ and then also like ‘oh my gosh, this is going on the Jan Thomas wall,’ you feel very humble,” Bartell said.

Bartell said she intends on carrying out Thomas’ mission.

“We want to keep that same excellent service, we want to keep that same nostalgic feel, the snack shack, the quality swim instructors,” she said.

Thomas’ daughter Becky said she and Thomas are both very happy that Darla will be taking over and are confident that it’s in good hands.

The Bullfrog Swim School opens at the location on Willow Avenue on April 1. Bartell said the swim school will be open year-round and those interested in joining can register online.

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