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:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

Grocery Shopping With A Twist

Grocery shopping takes on a new meaning at Sadie’s! 

This week we are introducing the brand Groceries Apparel. Their focus is to create fashion pieces with a purpose by using organic and recycled materials and made right here in the USA. With a focus on seed to skin these new items are sexy meets “green” with super soft shirts made from eucalyptus and versatile ...

Election Day Is Over. Now What?

Election Day 2017 has passed with some significant changes to both the school board and Maplewood Township Committee (TC), but perhaps not as big as some might have expected.

But where do both governing bodies go from here? Will we see a new mayor or a new school board president in 2018?

If the voting results are any indication, perhaps not.

Both Mayor Vic DeLuca and Board President ...

AtlantiCast: Episode 007

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll see how Atlantic Health System is driving innovation and finding new ways to solve tomorrow’s health care challenges, find out how a near tragedy on the tennis courts was averted thanks to some world-class training and technology at Chilton Medical Center and meet the 70 cancer doctors you need to know about – plus much ...

Maplewood Police Blotter - Three Thefts Reported

November 22, 2017

November 13 - Theft from Auto; During the previous day an unsecured vehicle parked on Oberlin St was entered and change was stolen.

November 13 - Theft from Auto; During the overnight hours an unsecured vehicle parked on North Cresent was entered and change was stolen.

November 19 - Motor Vehicle Theft; At approximately 8:15 p.m. an unsecured vehicle left running with the keys in ...

What's Open on Thanksgiving in Maplewood and South Orange

November 22, 2017

MAPLEWOOD AND SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - Wondering what's open on Thanksgiving? Here is a list of SOMA restaurants, grocery stores, and liquor stores that are open this Thursday, November 23: 

MAPLEWOOD

Maple Leaf Diner (165 Maplewood Ave., Maplewood) is open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Maplewood Diner (1473 Springfield Ave., Maplewood) is open 24 hours.

Parkwood Diner (1958 ...

Maplewood Observes Veterans Day with Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 11

MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Veterans Day was observed and celebrated in the Maplewood Municipal Building on Saturday, November 11.

Music was provided for the observance by the Maplewood Concert Band under the direction of Steve Kimmons, Former Commander of the Eighth Air Force Band.

After the first musical number was played, Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca called the ceremony to order, and called ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, November 24

The GenWealth Group, Maplewood

Jersey Cares Coat Drive

Giving Back

Carousel_image_ca01a7c1b17f2cacbd1b_cleanup

Fri, November 24, 8:00 AM

South Orange

"Blue" Friday Rahway River Clean Up

Giving Back Green

Carousel_image_24dfebf016d155f25e1b_ryan_roa_postcard_front_lo_res

Fri, November 24, 10:30 AM

Seton Hall University, South Orange

Ryan Roa - It's Complicated

Arts & Entertainment

Mon, November 27

The GenWealth Group, Maplewood

Jersey Cares Coat Drive

Giving Back

Family Health

Be Aware of Pancreatic Cancer’s Warning Signs

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and nationally renowned gastrointestinal (GI) cancer physician-scientist Angela Alistar, MD thinks it is critical that everyone learn how to recognize the warning signs of this aggressive cancer. Dr. Alistar is medical director of GI medical oncology at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center of Morristown Medical Center, Atlantic Health ...

Madison Edges Millburn, 13-7, in Final Game of 85-Year Thanksgiving Football Series

November 23, 2017

MILLBURN, NJ - Nasir Love's 2-yard touchdown run with 5:39 left in the fourth quarter broke a tie and gave Madison a 13-7 victory over Millburn in the 85th and final edition of the Thanksgiving series between the teams before about 2,000 spectators on Thursday.

The two schools have mutually agreed to end their Thanksgiving series after this year. With the victory, Madison finishes with a ...

East Orange Man Found Dead After Shooting in New Brunswick

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - An East Orange man died Friday night after a shooting in New Brunswick, authorities announced November 18.

Tawan J. Moses, age 25 of East Orange, was found dead by authorities at 8:30 p.m. on Throop Avenue near Fester Park according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey.

Moses had multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the ...

Westfield Activists Featured in ‘America Uprising’ Documentary

November 23, 2017

WESTFIELD, NJ — Activist group Westfield 20/20 was recently featured in the political documentary series “America Uprising.” Group creators Lillian Duggan and Marci Bandelli, along with group member and public education advocate Liz Mulholland, are featured in the production by Divided Films.

The documentary showcased the grassroots ...

Guess Hoo-Hoo-Hooo is Back in Clark

CLARK, NJ - It is Thanksgiving week and one nocturnal raptor living in town has much to be thankful for this year. The Great-Horned owl found caught in a soccer net at Arthur L. Johnson High School in August is back in town, thanks to the kindness of a couple of locals and the expertise of the staff at The Raptor Trust.     

According to a representative from the ...

Paterson's Great Falls National Park Celebrates Birthday

November 9, 2017

PATERSON, NJ - There’s Yosemite and Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Grand Teton, celebrations of beauty, centers of tourism. But, thanks to the work of so many that lived in and loved Paterson, the Silk City, since 2011, can boast of being the home to its very own national park. 

Calling the history of the falls, and the role the natural wonder has played in the development of ...

Solar Panels Will Generate Clean, Renewable Energy at The Mall at Short Hills

November 23, 2017

The Mall at Short Hills announced that construction is underway on a solar installation located on top of the shopping center’s parking decks. The nearly 3.5-MW solar system, which is expected to be operational in early 2018, will provide approximately 50 percent of the electricity required for heating, cooling and lighting the mall’s common areas.

No parking spaces will be lost, ...

Holiday Candlelight Tours of Verona's Kip's Castle Begin Dec. 5

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. invites the public to take a Holiday Candlelight Tour of Essex County Kip’s Castle to view the stained glass Tiffany windows and learn the history of this hidden gem. It will be held as follows:

Tuesdays, December 5, 12, 19 & 26

Thursdays, December 7, 14, 21 & 28

Saturdays, December 2, 9, 16, 23 & ...

A Holiday Feast For Train Fans Is On Display At The Model Railroad Center

Looking for something to do the day after Thanksgiving? Drop in to the Model Railroad Center and enjoy a festive sound and light show highlighting a sprawling, meticulously detailed HO layout.

See if you can spot the Batmobile and other surprises!

Snack bar, toddler rest area and gift shoppe conveniently located on site. Modest admission fee goes to support the non-profit Model Railroad ...