An opinion piece about the drowning of student Omar Hutchinson two years ago that was published this past weekend in NJ.com began, “One late summer day in 2020, two weeks before his senior year would begin, a Black boy from Maplewood drowned,” and questioned whether officials would provide more swim lessons in order to prevent further tragedies. The article questioned the decision to close the pool at Columbia High School many years ago.
On August 28, 2020, Hutchinson, a rising senior, passed away.
Frank Sanchez, the principal of Columbia High School, wrote and published a letter at the time. He said in the statement, which was at the time uploaded in its full on Village Green, “Our community stands with Omar’s family as they grieve this inexplicable loss.”
In an essay published on Sunday about the tragedy, urban designer and architect Devyani Guha and associate professor Khadijah Costley White of Rutgers University-New Brunswick argued that children need more access to swimming pools and swim instruction. According to NJ.com, Columbia High School’s high school pool closed in 2016.
The township started a trial program this summer to provide inexpensive swimming lessons at the Maplewood neighborhood pool.
According to a district representative on Monday, the Board of Education planned to discuss school facilities in a meeting on Monday night.
She said, “We are dedicated to faithfully bringing the community’s investment in our school buildings to fruition as soon and securely as possible. As part of the Board of School Estimate, “our current and prior boards have worked to provide urgently needed resources to both expand our schools and upgrade our buildings from a health and safety viewpoint.”
We naturally recognize and accept the worries about water safety and the disproportionate effect it has on under-represented members of our (and other communities), she continued.
According to her, “South Orange and Maplewood township officials have discussed swimming accessibility/affordability for their local pools at their township meetings. The district does not provide and is not giving swim classes to children.”
She stated, “In 2013 the SOMSD school board chose to close it to student/public usage owing to the dangerous and hazardous condition of the pool.” regarding the Columbia High School pool.
As part of the long-term facilities update, the architects were scheduled to unveil the CHS Commons space concept at 7:30 p.m.
After Monday’s meeting, the presentation will be accessible on the board website.