Meetings held on future Ryan Avenue school

Parents and community members were able to submit their feedback and pick between two options on the number of grades and students the future school will educate.

An open discussion: The School District of Philadelphia hosted two meetings to discuss the school being built on open land near Lincoln High School. It will replace Austin Meehan Middle School (pictured above). TIMES FILE PHOTO

Parents and community members were able to give feedback about a new school to be built on Ryan Avenue, but the biggest question concerning the exact location of the future school remains unanswered.

The School District of Philadelphia last week hosted two meetings for surrounding community members to give their input on the school to be built on open land near Lincoln High School. It will replace Austin Meehan Middle School. In both meetings, attendees voted strongly in favor of the school serving K-8 students.

There is a need for a new school due to the amount of growth in the area. Projections show there could be a deficiency of approximately 500 seats in the Mayfair and Meehan catchments by 2022. Population in the area has increased at an average rate of 5 percent per year and is expected to continue at a similar rate for the next five years.

The District plans to tear down Austin Meehan Middle School and replace it with the new school. Meehan is only at approximately 40 percent of its capacity. Some Mayfair Elementary students will be taught in the school this year due to an overpopulation at Mayfair.

The favored K-8 option would teach 1,665 students and cost an estimated $75 million to build. It would result in boundary changes for Brown, Forrest, Pollock and Mayfair schools.

The other option was a 6–8 grade middle school for 1,440 kids that would cost an estimated $64 million to construct.

Feedback that community members favored the first option will be submitted for consideration to the Board of Education and Superintendent William Hite.

Community members held off the vote for approximately 30 minutes at the Aug. 28 meeting at Lincoln due to continued questions of where the school would be built. Representatives were not able to promise that the school would not be built in front of Lincoln, which was the most vital criteria to many of the community members present.

“When we put in our request for proposal, one of the things they are going to ask us is what we are designing for, just like any single one of our projects,” said Hanniyah Sharpe-Brown, director of advocacy and external engagement for the school district.

For example, if the school would be an elementary school, the building would be designed for younger students. Sharpe-Browne said learning requirements between kindergarten and sixth grade students are different.

“It’s important for us to communicate how many kids the school will have and what type of school it is [to the school designers],” she said.

A second meeting was hosted at Pollock Elementary School the following night. District parents were able to submit feedback online or at meetings that took place at the schools.

“What we heard overwhelmingly from families is if they have the opportunity to have a nine-year experience in one location, that would be their preference,” Sharpe-Brown said.

Moving forward, Hite will present a final recommendation informed by the community’s feedback to the Board of Education and submit a request for proposal for a development team. As development continues, more community meetings will be hosted to present the schematic design for the school. There is no solid timeline about when the meeting will take place as of yet, but it will likely take place in late fall.

“[Community members] will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the location of the new building in a similar process,” Sharpe-Brown said.

Sharpe-Brown and other representatives stressed to the Times that the community and families would continue to have a voice in the process. ••

Logan Krum can be reached at lkrum@newspapermediagroup.com