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Lower Merion School District


Winter 2021 - Volume III

New Middle School Update Vol. III

Welcome to our New Middle School Newsletter! We’ll share information about all the exciting developments related to the new school – from construction updates to curriculum planning to contests where students and community members will help decide the school’s name, colors and mascot. We hope you’ll not only read the newsletter, but forward it to your friends and neighbors who might not receive it directly. Our new school will benefit not only its students, but the wider community of Lower Merion and Narberth. And we want as many residents involved in the process as possible.

If you have any ideas or questions you’d like answered in an upcoming edition, please feel free to email me, Amy Buckman, Director of School & Community Relations, at

Construction Update

COVID-19 has impacted many things, but the construction of the new Lower Merion School District middle school is moving along, on time and under budget.

Preparing for blasting at the site

Construction site prepped and ready for blasting.

The new middle school is set to open in September 2022. It is being built to eventually serve students in grades five through eight from Penn Wynne and Gladwyne elementary schools, though a decision on how 7th and 8th graders will transition is still being studied. Construction is under way at 1860 W. Montgomery Ave. in Villanova. Additional athletic fields for the school will be located at 1800 W. Montgomery Ave. and 1835 County Line Rd.

Machines crush stones at the construction site
Image of the early stages of foundation laying at the site

Top: Mobile stone crushing equipment hard at work in September 2020.
Bottom: Beginning to lay the foundation in December 2020.

The total estimate for the bids for the school construction was $95,821,570. But the bids came in at $83,259,057 – more than $12 million under that estimate. In other good news, LMSD was given an Aaa bond rating earlier this month by Moody’s. In the spring and summer, crews leveled the site, blasting away tons of rock from below the surface. Some of the rock was crushed at the site and used to support the building pad and on-site athletic fields. At this time, foundations have been poured and steel is going up. The construction will proceed in sections around the U-shaped building. As you can see from these photos, the new school is really taking shape!

School Name & History

The new school still needs a name, school colors and a mascot. In December, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Alexis McGloin shared a request for volunteers to serve on a committee to help make these selections. The response was great and the chosen committee members will start meeting soon. Don’t worry if you weren’t picked, there will be opportunities for all members of the LMSD community to make suggestions and weigh in.

Map showing the area where the Lenni Lenape native americans lived in PA

Map depicting the territory of the Lenni Lenape along the eastern seaboard. 

Traditionally, schools in our District have names that reflect the history of their geographic location. The area where the school is built was home to the Lenni Lenape and later settled by Quakers from Radnorshire, Wales. During the Revolutionary War, it was the site of skirmishes, between the better-known sites of battles and encampments in Philadelphia and Valley Forge. The Villanova name came after Augustinian Brothers founded the Catholic College of St. Thomas of Villanova in 1842. And the actual site of the school was the location of a mansion that was the home of department store owner Morris L. Clothier. Some elements of the mansion have been maintained for possible use in the new building.

K-4 Planning by Dr. Jennifer Gaudioso,
Elementary Curriculum Director

The District K-4 Committee convened at the end of November 2020, after a delayed start due to the pandemic. The group is made up of grade-level teachers, specialists, special area teachers and administrators from across buildings. Parent/guardian representatives will soon be joining the group as well. The committee began with development of a vision for future K-4 students. This work will lead to a vision and mission statement unique to K-4 education in the District and will serve to guide the work of the committee as a whole. Additionally, this preliminary vision work helped drive identification of subcommittees. The essential question asked was, "What traits and elements must be included in our program design in order to achieve our vision?" This K-4 vision will align with and support the mission and vision of the District strategic plan, All Forward.

Moving forward, the K-4 committee will transition to six starting subcommittees:

  • Reimagined Schedule/Design
  • Essentialized Curriculum
  • Transformative Instructional Design
  • SEL, Growth & Development
  • Intervention, Access & Equity
  • School Culture

Some of these groups will engage in outside research and virtual site visits to bring innovative ideas to the group. The subcommittees will serve as springboards for additional committees based on the recommendations of group members. The ultimate goal is to create a recommendation for K-4 programming that positions us to advance the strategic plan, aligns with the work of the 5-8 Committee and prepares students for a changing future.

5-8 Planning by Dr. Alexis McGloin,
Assistant Superintendent

In October, the 5-8 Committee picked up its pre-pandemic work planning for the September 2022 opening of the new middle school. While many of the original volunteers remained on the committee, the group was streamlined to include content-area teachers, specialists, administrators, parents/guardians and representatives of all our schools. The committee began by finalizing a working version of a 5-8 middle school mission and vision. These statements will guide the work of the committee as a whole, as well as drive subcommittee recommendations.

The second task of the 5-8 committee was to consider possible transition plans, as we bring a third middle school online and move all three middle schools to include grades 5-8. The committee reviewed four potential transition models, discussing the pros and cons of each. The committee also spent considerable time discussing the design of a 5-8 program that would develop and support the mission and vision of the District strategic plan, All Forward. The essential question asked was, “What traits and elements must be included to achieve our vision?”

Moving forward, the 5-8 committee will transition to six subcommittees:

  • School Culture
  • Student Intervention, Enrichment & Well-Being
  • Teaming
  • Unified Arts
  • Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
  • Grading & Reporting

The subcommittees will serve as springboards for additional committees with a goal of creating a cohesive 5-8 program recommendation for all three middles schools.

A Bird's Eye View!

Aerial View of Site in July 2020
Aerial View of the Site from January 2021

Drone images of the construction site from July 2020 and January 2021 !