It has been about four months since our last update to the Lower Merion School District community about acquiring property for the construction of a new Grades 5-8 Middle School. The Board of School Directors has determined that is their preferred option to alleviate crowding in our elementary and middle schools due to our growing student enrollment. There are significant developments to report.
As we told you in June, the School Board voted to purchase the property at 1860 Montgomery Avenue as a site for the new school. Finalization of the purchase is contingent on finding adequate field space and getting some zoning consideration from the Township. The search for field space is ongoing and the School Board remains hopeful that appropriate additional acres can be purchased soon. In the meantime, initial steps like land surveys are underway at the site.
On September 6, 2018, three architectural firms made presentations to the School Board, outlining how they would use the principles in the District's Strategic Plan "All Forward" to guide the design of a new school. You can watch their presentations here. The Board selected the Spiezle Architectural Group / Fielding Nair for the project. In the coming months, there will be multiple opportunities for community input, so that the architects can learn what our community values in a new school and incorporate those ideas into their plans as much as possible.
On Wednesday, the Lower Merion Township Building and Planning Committee voted to recommend that the full Board of Commissioners advertise an ordinance that would allow changes to Chapter 155 of the Township Zoning Code related to Public Schools. Those changes – if approved – will provide much of the essential relief the District needs to construct a 21st century middle school at the 1860 site. The School Board is greatly appreciative that the Township Commissioners have been attentive to the challenges and concerns that we are facing and we look forward to working collaboratively with them throughout this process.
Up next: The Lower Merion Township (LMT) Board of Commissioners will vote on October 17 on whether to give final approval to advertise that proposed ordinance. Members of the public are invited to comment at that meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Township Building, 75 E. Lancaster Avenue in Ardmore.
If final approval to advertise is given by the LMT Board of Commissioners at their meeting on October 17, a public hearing will be scheduled for Monday, November 19. Members of the public are invited to comment at that meeting as well. Then, the Board will vote immediately after the public commenting ends.
The proposed ordinance will also be considered by the LMT Planning Commission at their meeting on Monday, November 5 at 7:00 p.m. Although this commission does not have the authority to approve or deny the proposed ordinance, they do review the proposed ordinance, hear public comment and provide a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners.
We encourage families who would like to support the District's efforts to build a new middle school at 1860 Montgomery Avenue to attend these meetings and urge the Commissioners to approve this ordinance, which is so critical to the viability of the construction of the proposed middle school. You can also contact the commissioners by emailing CommissionerDistributionList@lowermerion.org.
This has the potential to be a very exciting time for our District and our community. Building a new middle school that encompasses the values of our Strategic Plan will serve our students for decades to come. In turn, we believe strong schools will continue to attract residents whose contributions will keep our community vibrant and prosperous.
Dr. Melissa R. Gilbert
President, Lower Merion Board of School Directors
Mr. Robert Copeland
Superintendent, Lower Merion School District