MaST CEO talks traffic at Somerton Civic meeting

John Swoyer III visited the civic meeting to talk about his growing school, which was awarded a 2017 National Blue Ribbon.

Last Tuesday, the Somerton Civic Association welcomed MaST Community Charter School CEO John Swoyer III and City Councilman Brian O’Neill.

MaST, 1800 Byberry Road a couple of months ago was awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon Award by the United States Department of Education. Out of the 30,000-plus schools nationwide that were in consideration for this prestigious award, MaST was one of the 342 winners. MaST was the only charter school in the state of Pennsylvania to receive this honor. Only one other city school, Gen. George A. McCall Elementary School, was awarded the 2017 National Blue Ribbon.

“It meant a lot to us,” said Swoyer.

Swoyer thanked the Somerton Civic for being good neighbors and also took time to address the increased enrollment of MaST and the traffic on Byberry Road.

Swoyer mentioned the expected addition of 150 students to MaST, but stated 125 of those will be high school students who will arrive by bus, so this will not add to the current traffic during school hours. MaST has a lottery of 10,000 students trying to get in the school, with 9,000 of those living in the city.

MaST has opened a second location in Lawncrest and has placed an application with the School Reform Commission for 2,600 seats for a third location at the Crown Cork & Seal property on Roosevelt Boulevard. Crown Cork & Seal sold the property to a realty firm and is looking to move into a headquarters outside Philadelphia.

Swoyer stated that he realized the “traffic is an issue” on Byberry Road, but believes “not a lot of those cars are going to MaST.” A member of the civic association suggested that cars dropping off students should not turn onto the property and should instead park in front of the post office building to let their kids out.

Swoyer stated that the post office was ticketing the parents who were parked in front of the building, and he would not advise motorists to double park on Byberry Road to let the students out. The red lights on Byberry Road are controlled by the city of Philadelphia, and Swoyer acknowledged he is in communication with the 7th Police District about ways to alleviate the traffic around the school.

Meanwhile, O’Neill spent a great deal of time talking about an affordable housing bill being discussed in Council. O’Neill believes this proposed piece of legislation won’t be an issue to the residents of Somerton and Northeast Philadelphia, but will mainly affect affordable housing in high-density zoning districts like the neighborhoods surrounding Center City.

Chris Bordelon, Somerton Civic Association president, told members that he has been in contact with other civics in regards to insurance policies for civic associations. Certain civic associations in the city of Philadelphia have been targeted by lawsuits.

There is a hearing set in City Council chambers on Jan. 31, 2018, at 10 a.m. to discuss these lawsuits on civic associations.

In other news:

Civic members overwhelmingly voted against an application for approval of a deck built at 11803 Lockart Road.

Sgt. Mike Leonard delivered crime statistics to the civic and had positive numbers to report. Burglaries and theft from auto were each down over 15 percent from the previous year. “There is no reason we can’t keep up these numbers next year.” Leonard also stated the police district will be working with MaST to address the traffic on Byberry Road. ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com