BOE Considering Spending Millions to Restore Columbia Pool

Not many details yet, but at the BOE meeting tonight (3/21), there will be a presentation on spending millions of dollars to restore and reopen the Columbia pool.  From the title, the focus seems to be on how restoring the pool is an access and equity issue. I don't remember that argument being discussed much, if at all, when a similar measure was rejected several years ago.

I'm not sure if the funding would be authorized separately or if the existing bond for facilities improvements would be scuttled in favor a new bond going before the Board of School Estimate that included pool money.

As I've stated in other contexts, I do think recreational equity is a concern in our towns, and there is also a public safety element to swim lessons. However, these should be given well before high school, and I believe that better options exist for this. Given the dangers and problems which closed the CHS pool about a decade ago, I think offering free or reduced-price lessons at our town pools would be a better option.


What a cluster f***.  The pool was closed almost a decade ago. The strategic plan to rebuild and update our school system infrastructure was done a few years ago.  But now, suddenly, we need to save the pool?  Where was this concern 2, 3, 4, or 5 years ago?


yahooyahoo said:

What a cluster f***. The pool was closed almost a decade ago. The strategic plan to rebuild and update our school system infrastructure was done a few years ago. But now, suddenly, we need to save the pool? Where was this concern 2, 3, 4, or 5 years ago?

The pool was closed six years ago. Concern about its fate was hard to miss during discussions around the infrastructure plan.


The BOE voted in 2013 to close the pool due to persistent leaking and the threat of structural collapse from water weight as it's on the second floor, with the final swimming occurring in 2016.

Here's the Long Range Facilities Plan from 2019, with no mention of the pool, as funding had been rejected by the BOE years earlier.

https://www.somsd.k12.nj.us/mdocs-posts/long-range-facilities-plan-boe-presentation-june-13-2019/


Any organization operating with a budget has to make tradeoffs.  Those of us who paid attention and participated during the bond discussions understood that the pool would be a huge expense with limited return.  It's too small for meets or serious swim team practices.  And the space is better used for classroom and lab space.  On top of that, the bonds were approved for specific projects, and we can't just redirect that spending into today's hip project.


chalmers said:

I don't remember that argument being discussed much, if at all, when a similar measure was rejected several years ago.

What arguments in favor of the pool do you remember being discussed when the similar measure was rejected?


DanDietrich said:

Any organization operating with a budget has to make tradeoffs.

The arguments against the pool are formidable. As a friend of a family of pool advocates — not that I can recall discussing the issue with them, following it on my own when it arises — I disagree, however, with the characterizations of “today’s hip project” and of access and equity as a new wrinkle, which diminish their motives and sincerity.


It's nearly 10 years ago, so my memory might not be perfect, but last time I remember the bulk of the discussion related to the swim team and how it would be forced to find pools in other towns. This Patch story from that time talked about how most students did not want $8.1 million spent on the pool, because most of them didn't like swim classes anyway. Though some of that might have been due to the poor condition of the pool area and the ghastly state of the locker rooms.

The story does mention the concern about students who are not able to swim. As I did, some BOE members proposed other ways that community children could learn how to swim for low or no cost using existing resources. Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anything happening on that front over the last decade. Seems like once the CHS pool money was defeated, attention drifted to other things.

https://patch.com/new-jersey/maplewood/we-dont-want-new-pool-student-representative-says


chalmers said:

The story does mention the concern about students who are not able to swim. As I did, some BOE members proposed other ways that community children could learn how to swim for low or no cost using existing resources. Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall anything happening on that front over the last decade. Seems like once the CHS pool money was defeated, attention drifted to other things.

https://patch.com/new-jersey/maplewood/we-dont-want-new-pool-student-representative-says

It's a counterpoint I've heard in this go-around also: That it would be best to address inequities in learning swim using other resources, and also much earlier than high school.


Here's the Patch story when the $8.1 million in pool money was voted down in 2013 despite initial support from a majority of BOE members.

https://patch.com/new-jersey/maplewood/boe-rejects-8m-chs-pool-renovation?fbclid=IwAR3-lUk49wWGeoVvuDFLWW09NWlyf1hDIsKIL7Q5HkjnqBhSt3stupJ3-so


Both of our towns have good pools.  If the goal is access and equity it would be far more economical to offer free pool access and lessons to anyone who applies for it.  Since we use badges it can easily be done anonymously.


 A swimming pool in the high school is neither a must-have or a nice-to-have.  It is a LUXURY.  


I looked at Saveourkidspool.org and this is much more than "a group of concerned parents, students, and alumni...."  The group is well-organized and clearly there has been some money spent on videos, PR, and organizing.  The website does not state which group is organizing this effort.  

I wish whoever is funding this would be transparent. 


The only swimming pool lesson I got as a kid…

if you see someone standing still in the pool, looking upwards, you know what he’s doing.

AND


if you see bubbles, run like hell.


Vote NO on the damn pool.


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

The only swimming pool lesson I got as a kid…

if you see someone standing still in the pool, looking upwards, you know what he’s doing.

AND


if you see bubbles, run like hell.


Vote NO on the damn pool.

there is no vote.


My kids learned to swim in that pool when they were kindergarten ages. Personally I think the pool created too many problems with the high school kids. Phones are stolen from the lockers, it’s a different world today. I’m all for demolition.


Jaytee said:

My kids learned to swim in that pool when they were kindergarten ages. Personally I think the pool created too many problems with the high school kids. Phones are stolen from the lockers, it’s a different world today. I’m all for demolition.

Our kids took lessons there when they were little.  The locker rooms were a total disaster, the showers/plumbing didn't work, and the heating system in the pool didn't work.  If people want to save the pool, it's going to be a very large and expensive undertaking.


DanDietrich said:

Formerlyjerseyjack said:

The only swimming pool lesson I got as a kid…

if you see someone standing still in the pool, looking upwards, you know what he’s doing.

AND


if you see bubbles, run like hell.


Vote NO on the damn pool.

there is no vote.

Wouldn't there have to be a bond referendum?


Formerlyjerseyjack said:


Wouldn't there have to be a bond referendum?

I don't know. One of the supporters said something like "the money is there." I'm not sure if the idea is to take whatever money has been allocated to convert the pool area to learning spaces and what I believe is a social/commons area, and just use it for the pool instead. Not sure if the BOE could do that or if they'd have to go back to the Board of School Estimate and the State for that kind of revision.

This Village Green Article says the pool space was intended to be used for classrooms, science labs and a media center.


chalmers said:

Formerlyjerseyjack said:


Wouldn't there have to be a bond referendum?

I don't know. One of the supporters said something like "the money is there." I'm not sure if the idea is to take whatever money has been allocated to convert the pool area to learning spaces and what I believe is a social/commons area, and just use it for the pool instead. Not sure if the BOE could do that or if they'd have to go back to the Board of School Estimate and the State for that kind of revision.

This Village Green Article says the pool space was intended to be used for classrooms, science labs and a media center.

the board has said  that they are willing to discuss the pool.  That's not a vote, offer of a vote, or any promise to vote.  And yes, they would have to entirely revisit the bond issue unless they funded it separately, and then people like me who want more classrooms for my kid would be pretty damned upset.  


yahooyahoo said:

Our kids took lessons there when they were little.  The locker rooms were a total disaster, the showers/plumbing didn't work, and the heating system in the pool didn't work.  If people want to save the pool, it's going to be a very large and expensive undertaking.

When did your kids take lessons? my kids were taking swim lessons around 1992/ 93. It got progressively worse by the time they were in Columbia. Graduated 2005/06. 


Jaytee said:

yahooyahoo said:

Our kids took lessons there when they were little.  The locker rooms were a total disaster, the showers/plumbing didn't work, and the heating system in the pool didn't work.  If people want to save the pool, it's going to be a very large and expensive undertaking.

When did your kids take lessons? my kids were taking swim lessons around 1992/ 93. It got progressively worse by the time they were in Columbia. Graduated 2005/06. 

The early 2000s.


yahooyahoo said:

I looked at Saveourkidspool.org and this is much more than "a group of concerned parents, students, and alumni...." The group is well-organized and clearly there has been some money spent on videos, PR, and organizing. The website does not state which group is organizing this effort.

I wish whoever is funding this would be transparent.

The website contains three videos by a resident who says he’s been a filmmaker and a TV producer and is an administrator at the Tisch School of the Arts. A possible clue to the professionalism of the videos and PR?


Note to any newcomers who may have moved here in the last 2, 3, 4 or 5 years and felt stirred to try to save a historic local resource whose fate had already been decided: We don’t want to hear it.


We are not talking about a public facility where young children can learn to swim and members of the entire community can swim laps during the winter months.  Given current concerns with school security, public access to a swimming pool within the high school would be severely limited to non-existent.  The question is whether a renovated/rebuilt(?) swimming pool would be more valuable to the education of our high schoolers than an expanded library and media center.  Given that choice under those circumstances, I would vote for the media center.


DaveSchmidt said:

Note to any newcomers who may have moved here in the last 2, 3, 4 or 5 years and felt stirred to try to save a historic local resource whose fate had already been decided: We don’t want to hear it.

Dave, your posts here are posts that I read carefully.  I respect you, and I get what you are saying.  I just wish that the folks who have started this would have done some research first.  We have so many issues for the BOE to deal with that rehashing an old one only to come inevitably to the same conclusion seems a real waste of bandwidth to me.  All of the information is out there, or could be obtained by asking a few questions before trying to start a movement.  We have real access and equity issues to address, but this solution to a swimming issue just doesn't make fiscal sense when we have two good town pools.


When learning to swim is the most important access and equity issue remaining, then by all means build a pool for the schools and YMCA to use.  Right now, learning to swim doesn't even make the top 1000 access and equity issues.

Convert the pool space for classroom learning uses.  If the ceiling, classic though it may be, can't be retained at reasonable cost, it has to go.

Alternatively, people who are that passionate about the school can pay for repairs out of a private funds.


joan_crystal said:

We are not talking about a public facility where young children can learn to swim and members of the entire community can swim laps during the winter months.  Given current concerns with school security, public access to a swimming pool within the high school would be severely limited to non-existent.  The question is whether a renovated/rebuilt(?) swimming pool would be more valuable to the education of our high schoolers than an expanded library and media center.  Given that choice under those circumstances, I would vote for the media center.

Yes, a full-service indoor swimming facility that serves the entire community might be a worthy investment. The BOE could contribute based on use for the CHS swim team and classes for students in need (which really should be much earlier than high school). Perhaps the Y could also provide partial funding and operate the facility. People who aren't familiar with the CHS pool might not realize that its size and location within the school essentially prevent community use, even if it were brought up to acceptable condition. 


DanDietrich said:

I just wish that the folks who have started this would have done some research first.

A reasonable reply, like the rest of your comment, to a sarcastic expression of sympathy for people pursuing what I presume is an honest cause. I didn’t blame parents who refought the turf vote years later; I don’t blame pool advocates for taking another shot (even though I probably would have favored your “it’s been settled” approach). It shouldn’t be hard for the school board to defend the earlier decision after hearing the presentation. If it can’t, my first thought would be that’s either a credit to the advocates or the fault of the board. I’m at a disadvantage in having not watched the meeting last night.

The respect and attention are mutual, Dan.


In order to add a comment – you must Join this community – Click here to do so.

Advertisement

Advertise here!

Featured Events