Education

Opinions Differ Over Columbia High School Swimming Pool Proposal

October 25, 2013 at 12:29 PM

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:

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

SOMA

Seton Hall University Invites the Public to Join in a Celebration at Seton Hall Weekend, Sept. 23-25

September 21, 2016

The public is invited to attend Seton Hall Weekend,Sept. 23 – 25, 2016.

“Seton Hall Weekend is a University tradition that celebrates our close ties enjoyed by students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff and he surrounding community,” said Events Director, Jennifer O’Sheal, who organizes the weekend.

Activities include: music and theater performances, ...

Former NY Giant Charles Way, Wife Tahesha join Komen North Jersey to Fight Breast Cancer; Way Joins 2017 'Pink Tie Guys' Class

Susan G. Komen North Jersey recently announced that former New York Giants player Charles Way has committed to being a 2017 Pink Tie Guy. The Susan G. Komen North Jersey Pink Tie Guys are partners in the Komen promise to save lives and end breast cancer forever. This exclusive group of gentleman are advocates of Komen North Jersey by helping to raise funds and spread the message about the ...

Benefit for C.H.O.W. Food Bank: PowerNet BizExpo on Thurs., Sept. 22

For this Thursday’s September 22 event benefiting the C.H.O.W. food bank for the second year, the independent networking group PowerNet has put together a small-business exposition called PowerNet BizExpo to enable business people to mingle with consumers from the area. (PowerNetNJ.com) (facebook.com/CHOWofLivingston)

The South Orange contingent will include Stanley Malbranch from ...

South Orange Train Station Centennial Celebration on Sat., Oct. 1

We're shutting down Sloan Street for a roaring twenties party! Celebrate our architectural gem of a train station and the rail service that changed our town and this region forever.

- Live swing band and dancers
- Delectable appetizers and desserts
- Cash bar with beer, wine and a signature Centennial Cocktail
- Historic look back through time!

Saturday, October 1, 6 p.m. to ...

Upcoming Events

Carousel_image_815b0e46fd2cd9bb082a_97ba95ea885add19ac64_da736a31c7df22c10f9d_the_how_and_the_why_icon

Sat, September 24, 8:00 PM

Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre, Summit

The How and the Why

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, September 25, 11:00 AM

The Ethical Culture Society of Essex County, Maplewood

Family Colloquy on Education: Community Event ...

Education Religions And Spirituality

Carousel_image_f2d1266cea6584cfb475_31585016fdfe61774a52_julio_valdez_pic

Sun, September 25, 2:00 PM

Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit

Plein Air Workshop at Reeves-Reed Arboretum

Arts & Entertainment

Carousel_image_815b0e46fd2cd9bb082a_97ba95ea885add19ac64_da736a31c7df22c10f9d_the_how_and_the_why_icon

Sun, September 25, 8:00 PM

Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre, Summit

The How and the Why

Arts & Entertainment

Obituary: John T. Theroux of South Orange

September 11, 2016

John T. Theroux

Born in Clarksburg, WVA on May 14, 1921
Departed on Sep. 8, 2016 and resided in South Orange, NJ

John T. Theroux, 95, of South Orange, died peacefully on September 8, 2016, at Cape Cod Hospital, surrounded by his family. He was spending time at his summer home in Dennis.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend the Mass of the Resurrection at ...

Obituary: Elsie M. DeCroce of Maplewood

Elsie M. DeCroce

 

Born in Newark on Feb. 17, 1924
Departed on Aug. 26, 2016 and resided in Maplewood, NJ

Elsie M. DeCroce, 92, of Maplewood died at her son's home in Warren surrounded by her family on Friday, August 26, 2016. 

 

Relatives and friends are invited to attend the funeral service at The Jacob A. Holle Funeral Home, 2122 ...

South Orange Police Chief: A Message Regarding Recent Terrorist Activities

September 21, 2016

The following was posted on the South Orange Police Department's Facebook page.

A MESSAGE FROM OUR CHIEF REGARDING RECENT TERRORIST ACTIVITIES:

In light of recent incidents and the arrest of a subject believed to be responsible for bombings in NY & NJ, South Orange Police Department would like residents to know that the men and woman who serve our community each and every day will ...

4th & Valley Design Unveiling on Mon., Sept. 19

On Monday, September 19th, at 8 p.m., at the Baird Center (5 Mead St), Meridia Development will unveil their vision for a 100+ apartment structure to be built at 4th Street and Valley in South Orange.

The Academy Heights Neighborhood Association encourages residents who are concerned with development as it impacts residents, transit, architectural style, and general ...

South Orange Police Blotter - Attempted Robbery on Prospect. St.

September 22, 2016

South Orange Police Blotter as of September 22

Attempted Robbery - A 19 year old resident of South Orange stated that he was walking into his apartment complex on Prospect St. on Tuesday, September 20, at approximately 11 p.m. when two actors followed him inside the premises and demanded he turn over his wallet. The victim stated that one of the actors brandished a ...

Maplewood Police Blotter: Reports of Shots Fired, Two Burglaries

September 16 - Shots Fired; At approximately 10:15 p.m., Maplewood Police received multiple calls for possible shots fired. Officers responded to and checked the area. Several shell casings were recovered at the intersection of Peach Tree Rd. and Woodside Rd. At the time of the incident, it did not appear that anything was struck by gun fire. The investigation is ...

It Is What It Is … Top Tips for Buying “As Is” Used Cars

Knock Knock …

A customer buys a pre-owned car in New Jersey “As Is,” and drives off the lot happy as a clam that she got a nice car for a great deal. Two weeks later, the “tire pressure” light comes on and the customer finds out she needs a new tire, caused by the dreaded “tire rot.” The customer returns to the dealership and cries foul, demanding ...

Why You Should Join A South Orange Neighborhood Association

Moving to a new area can be stressful, especially when you don't know anyone. Last weekend, South Orange reached out to new neighbors by hosting their annual Newcomer's Day. If you missed it, don't dismay. One of the first steps that new home owners can take to get involved is to join their local neighborhood association. 

Each neighborhood association is run by a president or ...

You’re Only as Old as You Dress

“Do you think this is too young for me?” asked a voice from behind me. I turned from the dressing room door where my teenage daughter was trying on clothes.

The “this” in question was a super-clingy, lycra mini dress in a black and purple animal print.

The “me” who was asking, was a 40-something year-old mom.

I was, quite literally, at a loss for ...

‘Bathing in Moonlight’ Recalls 1950s Cuba

PRINCETON, NJ – Although this  play by Nilo Cruz is set in 2015, reflecting both Cuba and Miami, the theme is closer to struggles at least 30 years earlier. 

A priest who falls in love would more likely become an Episcopalian or even a Unitarian. So this dichotomy makes the whole premise less than believable. It’s really “The Thornbirds” revisited.
Raul ...

In Your Community

Teen And Dad Join Team Atlantic Health System at Bike MS

Ryan Amalfitano, who turns 15 this weekend, plans to ride his bicycle 100 miles in two days.  He won't be alone ‑ he and his father, Chris Amalfitano, chair of the emergency department at Overlook Medical Center, are part of Team Atlantic Health System which is taking part in Bike MS, a nationwide fund-raising effort on Sept.17 and 18.

Their team and at least another 52 teams of ...

Shots Heard at Lowell Place Not a Random Act, According to West Orange Police

September 24, 2016

WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange police say an incident Thursday night that left a township man with minor injuries was not a random act.

Police received reports of shots fired in the area of Lowell Place on Sept. 22 just after 10 p.m.

The resident reported that he was approached by a man from behind, a struggle ensued and he was left with cuts and bruises to his hands.

It ...

Bowcraft Announces 2017 Schedule as Zoning Board Plans to Meet on Property's Housing Site Plan

September 21, 2016

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ  —  Bowcraft Amusement Park on Route 22 West in Scotch Plains will operate this fall and plans to re-open for the 2017 season, it told customers Tuesday. The amusement park operators sent an email to their customer base to dispel the perception that Bowcraft's final days were imminent:

To Our Valued Customers,

There is much buzz in social ...