The South Orange and Maplewood Board of Education is proposing a new swimming pool and locker rooms while making space for new classrooms at Columbia High School, but the question remains as to whether or not students even want a new pool.
The district has applied for $30 million in capital projects and $12 million in grants. Among these projects would be the plan for a new swimming pool and locker room space behind the existing main gym.
The district will not pursue plans that were discussed last year to create the swimming pool edition with a fitness center.
“The majority of students do not want a new pool,” said Maggie Kritzberg, a Columbia High School student representative to the Board of Education.
“Obviously those involved with the swim team would like a new pool or another option but I spoke to the student council and individuals and a majority do not want a pool,” she added.
Board President Elizabeth Daugherty suggested conducting a thorough survey to see where students stand on the issue and why.
“My understanding is that it does have to do with the swim class itself, a lot of them don't want to take that class,” said Kritzberg.
The swim class also causes logistical issues like having to chance and get to class on time, she added.
On the other hand, said Kritzberg, a surprising number of students at Columbia High School do not know how to swim and it might be beneficial to have the pool for those students.
Not knowing how to swim is a public safety concern, said Board Member Bill Gaudelli and Board Member Andrea Wren-Hardin suggested teaching children how to swim at a younger age.
“We heard some intriguing ideas from the YMCA about partnerships with elementary schools,” said Daugherty. “If there's a pool we can figure out how to do things differently but first we have to decide if there is a pool.”
Board Member Jeffrey Bennett suggested it would much more efficient to identify students who cannot swim and provide scholarships to teach them how to swim at one of the community pools.
A public forum will be held to further discuss the issue with a tentative date set of October 17, which may be changed based on the schedules of board members.
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