Education

Opinions Differ Over Columbia High School Swimming Pool Proposal

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The Board of Education (BOE) hosted a community forum to discuss capital plans and Columbia High School (CHS) renovations on Thursday evening in the CHS library. The discussion focused on the decision of whether to build a swimming pool addition at CHS.  The existing pool is in a state of disrepair and it also no longer conforms to requirements for use in interscholastic competition, which makes repairing it unreasonable. 

The session, which included members of the South Orange Board of Trustees, the Maplewood Township Committee and the general public, hinged on the issue of the expense of a new pool versus the benefits of having one. 

Building a new pool would cost taxpayers approximately $8.1 million, in addition to the $5.9 million it will cost to repurpose the existing pool area into classrooms, which are needed to accommodate the growing student population. 

Sign Up for E-News

Should the district decide not to build a pool, it would mean eliminating swimming from the physical education program as well as creating challenges for the school’s swim teams, which would have to rent pool time elsewhere and travel by bus to every practice and meet.

Resident Sue Goodman presented information regarding the potential revenue the district could recoup from having a pool.  Based on her research, nearby pools are in high demand for lessons and swim team usage.  She estimates that after expenses, a pool could generate a positive cash flow of approximately $96,000 annually.

She also expressed that swimming is a life skill that all should possess, and that roughly 30% of incoming freshmen cannot swim.  A pool would serve those students as well as the swim team and the community.

South Orange Trustee Steven Schnall said that the township is looking into upgrading its recreation facilities and has talked about the possibility of an indoor pool being a part of that plan.  However, the talks on that subject are only in preliminary stages.

Maplewood Committeeperson Kathleen Leventhal asked the BOE what the increased cost to the average homeowner would be if the new pool is built.  Cheryl Schneider estimated that the incremental cost is difficult to predict, but would probably cost the average household $20 more each year for 30 years, the life of the bond.

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca asked people to think about the impact the decision will have on parents’ decisions about keeping their children in our public schools.

“If we have less than superior facilities, then that factors into their decision to walk,“ DeLuca said.  “People don’t like to pay taxes, but if people think their kids are not getting value out of their education, that is even worse.”

Resident Ed Cerny said, “A pool that people can swim in year-round is a pretty critical piece of municipal infrastructure, and it’s almost a bit of a strange discussion for this to be at a Board of Education meeting, because in a lot of towns, the pool does not have to be at a school, but that’s what we’ve got.”  He is an advocate in favor of a new pool.

David Cutler, current co-captain of the CHS swim team, told the Board that this year’s team must practice in Union four days each week from 8:30 to10 p.m., and the additional travel time to and from practice impacts study time and the ability to seek out teachers for help after school.

“Every year, we are going to see a decline in the number of students who join the swim team if it’s at an offsite pool,” Cutler said.  “Last year we had two freshman boys come out for the team, and we are losing eight seniors to graduation. There will only be seven or eight boys on the team next year if we can’t recruit any freshmen this year.”

High school freshman and competitive swimmer Brad Therol told the board that he decided to go to school elsewhere because of the lack of adequate swimming facilities at CHS. 

Roy Greenman spoke as a representative of the CHS Athletic Hall of Fame committee, who are unanimous in feeling a new pool should be built and that the swim program would be jeopardized if it is not.

South Orange resident Marion Cutler raised the issue of money.

“We can’t afford this. We are looking at, based on your projections, a $17 million shortfall in four years,” Cutler said. “It is disrespectful to say ‘Oh, it’s only $20 more.’ It’s a lot of money and we as a district cannot afford this.”  She suggested that the pool should be a municipal issue, not the BOE’s.

The financial concerns were echoed by resident Sabina Hack, who has four children who swim competitively, but feels that using limited resources to fund a pool “will result in the elimination of vital educational programs.” She said it would be foolish to spend so much on a resource used by so few.  She also suggested that swim team members could be given physical education credit for participation and could use the time during the day that would normally be spent at gym class on academic work.

Residents Michael Healy, Theresa Burns, Risa Olinsky and swim coach Maggie Singler spoke in favor of the pool.

Walter Fields said the school’s other athletic facilities that are utilized by a larger number of students are inadequate and should be addressed instead of a pool.  He points out that the fencing team and the girls’ basketball team cannot play in the CHS gymnasium because it is not large enough.

“Before you jump off this cliff, I sincerely hope you will take a comprehensive look at the total needs of the physical education department at Columbia High School,” Fields said.

BOE members offered comments to wrap up the forum:

Sandra Karriem: expressed that swimming is a life skill and that it should be taught in school; would like to see more research into revenue models of a pool; and wants to consider fund-raising effort to help fund the pool.

Wayne Eastman: said there is a very wide variety of things that could be done with $8 million and that he could not look taxpayers in the eyes and say this should be the priority for that much money.

Madhu Pai: said that in an ideal world, we would want a new pool, but questions how a fiscally strapped district can afford it when there are so many other educational priorities that must come first; she also called for private funding or a donation campaign to help pay for it.

David Giles: said he tends to support building the pool; said it would be a community draw and an important asset for the school; and that the pool could be used to teach swimming to younger children and would be a good investment for the community.

Jeffrey Bennet: said the projected shortfalls of tax revenue versus operating expenses must be considered; while the capital improvement budget and the operating budget are separate, taxpayers only care about the bottom line; higher taxes will limit the growth of other programs and he cannot support the pool.

Bill Gaudelli: said there is shame associated with not knowing how to swim, and that while budget concerns are real, a new pool will enhance the school and the community at large, making him lean toward support of the pool project.

Andrea Wren-Hardin: Although leaning toward supporting the pool, not entirely convinced; Sees the positives associated with it, but sees the budget concerns as well; Does not want other educational experiences to be compromised by fiscal constraints, but believes a pool would be well utilized.

Beth Daugherty: Said the budget deficit is real, but cost-saving measures are being explored; Does not want to raise taxes, but also sees revenue potential of the facility; Said what happens in the classroom is the most important thing, but sees a pool as something that sets CHS apart and could be a point of pride.

The slides presented at the forum are posted on the BOE website here: http://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/site/default.aspx?PageID=1.  The BOE will most likely vote on this issue at their next meeting in November.  Comments may be emailed to the BOE at capitalplan@somsd.k12.nj.us.  

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

Maplewood Police Blotter - Five Thefts from Vehicles Reported

May 23, 2017

May 17 - Theft from Auto; Sometime during the overnight hours, the window to a vehicle parked on S. 4th St. was broken and a fanny pack left in view was stolen.

May 19 - Theft from Auto; Sometime during the overnight hours, the window to a vehicle parked on Garfield Pl. was broken and a tablet left in view was stolen.

May 19 - Theft from Auto; Sometime during the ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Robbery; Burglary and Attempted Burglary on Same Street

May 14 - Robbery; At approximately 3:45 p.m., three males approached two juveniles in Borden Park. They asked them if they had any money before snatching a cell phone out of one of their hands and displaying what was believed to be a toy firearm. The males then left the park. One of the juveniles chased after the males and the cell phone was returned to him.

May 8 ...

Sunny Skies for MayFest Street Fair in Maplewood on Sunday

May 23, 2017

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - On an absolutely lovely Sunday, the Annual MayFest Street Fair, sponsored by the Springfield Avenue Partnership, drew hundreds of people of all ages to Springfield Avenue.

Adults were able to enjoy the wide assortment of products being sold by the various vendors, as well as live entertainment, and a wide range of food and drink for sale.

Children focused on the petting zoo ...

New Location for Maplewood Farmer's Market this Season

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - When the Maplewood Farmers Market opens for its 23rd season on Monday, June 5, it will be in a new location. The market will be moving from the Indiana Street Municipal parking lot to 1848-1852 Springfield Avenue between Yale and Oberlin Streets, according to an update from the Township of Maplewood, which sponsors the market.

According to the update, advantages of ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, May 28, 11:00 AM

The Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, Maplewood

Estrella Sainburg: GreenFaith

Green Religions And Spirituality

Carousel_image_e48662b9a639db285122_duck_race_2

Mon, May 29, 11:15 AM

Maplewood

19th Annual Memorial Duck Race

Giving Back

Carousel_image_b07a25a91798e9fec584_slides-880x400-gaelicstorm

Fri, June 2, 8:00 PM

South Orange Performing Arts Center, South Orange

Gaelic Storm at SOPAC

Arts & Entertainment

Statement of Appreciation to Dr. Ramos and Community Update

May 22, 2017

The following letter was sent by email to the school community at about 1 p.m. on Monday, May 22.

Dear SOMSD Community:

On behalf of the Board of Education, I thank Dr. Ramos for his service to our school district since August 2015. We greatly appreciate Dr. Ramos' leadership in the adoption of the Access and Equity policy, his commitment to dialogue and restorative practices, and the ...

What Every Real Estate Agent (and Homeowner) Needs to Know About Insurance

Real Estate Agents take on a great deal of responsibility when they guide us through the process of purchasing a home; knowing the basics of property insurance to point clients in the right direction is an important part of confidently brokering a home sale.

Under what circumstances should a buyer be concerned about special coverage?

A Vacant Home

Vacant homes are at higher risk for most ...

'Mac' Crosses Florida Border, Rides Past $6000 Fundraising Milepost

May 23, 2017

BLOOMFIELD, NJ - Mac-Adley Hyppolite Jr. just rode over the Florida border this week and cruised right past the $6000 milepost on his bike trip to raise funds for Children's Hospital. Mac started his journey from Bloomfield to Orlando Florida earlier this month leaving Watsessing Park on May 1. 

At the kick-off of the bike tour, Mac went out of his way to thank "every one of ...

Seton Hall Prep Dedicates Tevlin Memorial Field and Zimmermann Scoreboard

WEST ORANGE, NJ – The family, friends, teachers and teammates of Brendan Tevlin (Class of 2013) and Billy Zimmerman (Class of 2011) gathered at the Seton Hall Preparatory School’s (SHP) Kelly Athletic Complex on Saturday as the high school officially dedicated the Brendan Patrick Tevlin ’13 Memorial Field and Billy Zimmermann ’11 Scoreboard.

The ceremony marked a ...

Sen. Menendez Kicks Off Jersey Jobs Tour Union County College Elizabeth Campus

May 23, 2017

ELIZABETH, NJ – Esteven Maas needed a job. “I was out of work with a wife and two children, and it was scary. I was sending out resumes, then I got this email saying, ‘Learn to be a machinist.’ I thought, ‘Wow! that is related to what I was doing.’”

He entered the manufacturing program at Union County and had a job waiting for him at New Jersey ...

New York General Consulate of Mexico in Roselle this Week to Help Immigrants Get Documentation Services

ROSELLE, NJ - Representatives from Adelante Alliance New Jersey and the New York General Consulate of Mexico are in Roselle this week to help give immigrants in the tristate area an opportunity to begin procedures to obtain passports, a consular identification cards, birth certificates, and dual citizenship.

Immigrants came from as far away as Dover, NJ on Tuesday Morning to the Roselle Fire ...

TripAdvisor: Wildwood Crest is Best Summer Hot Spot in Nation

May 21, 2017

WILDWOOD CREST, NJ — Wildwood Crest has been named the nation's top 2017 Summer Hot Spot by TripAdvisor.

The Cape May County beachfront community was selected based on the greatest increase in seasonal hotel booking interest, including the average one-week vacation costs for hotels and airfare.

According to a recent TripAdvisor survey of more than 1,300 U.S. travelers, 88 percent ...

Maplewood Fire Department Dedicates New Ambulances at Maplewood Fire Headquarters

May 20, 2017

The Maplewood Fire Department recently placed two new ambulances in service, which were blessed and dedicated on May 20 at a ceremony held in front Maplewood Fire Headquarters on Dunnell Rd. The blessing was given by the fire department Chaplain Father Jim Worth from St. Joseph’s Church in Maplewood. The dedication was attended by Mayor Victor DeLuca, Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams, Committeeman ...

Keep Up with Your Instrument with NJIO’s Summer Programs

Summer programs at New Jersey Intergenerational Orchestra (NJIO) begin on June 8th with the first of two Chamber Music Workshops.  These workshops provide the perfect opportunity for music students of all ages and abilities to explore the artistry of chamber music while gaining confidence and skills as a musician.  Led by NJIO’s Artistic Director Warren Cohen, ...

Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey Announce Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez as Master of Ceremonies for New Jersey State Youth of the Year Gala

The Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey announced today that 2016 Olympic Gold & Silver Medalist and “Dancing with the Stars” Champion Laurie Hernandez will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the NJ State Youth of the Year gala on June 6th at Montclair State University, Conference Center Ballroom in Montclair, NJ.

The Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey Youth of the Year gala ...