Community members vote on new Ryan Avenue school location

The School District of Philadelphia provided two different options for the Northeast school expansion location as community members got to vote on a number of issues concerning the school.

Two meetings were held last week to give parents and community members an update on the new school to be built on Ryan Avenue and allow them to provide feedback.

The meetings, held last Tuesday and Thursday at Abraham Lincoln High School, presented two location options to build the new K-8 school. Meeting attendees participated in a live survey on a number of categories, such as walking distance, traffic and safety to determine which categories were most valued by the community.

Option “A” is located in the rear of Lincoln near Pennypack Park on the existing baseball field, while Option “B” is located at the front of Lincoln and would be highly visible from Ryan and Rowland avenues.

“A” would require a walking distance of 950 feet, or about 2.5 city blocks, from Ryan Avenue, or 1,500 feet, or about four city blocks, from Rowland Avenue. For “B,” the walking distance would be approximately 600 feet, or 1.5 city blocks, from Ryan Avenue, and 400 feet, or one city block, from Rowland Avenue. At Thursday’s meeting, 63 percent of attendees said walking distance was not important. The voting results listed in this article include only results from Thursday’s meeting and do not include results from the Tuesday meeting or online voting, and are not the final tally.

The site at option “A” would include two separate vehicle loops for parent drop-off and school buses. Due to space constraints, buses and cars would have to share the same driveway at “B.” At Thursday’s meeting, 88 percent voted that separate driveways for school buses and cars were very important.

For safety, the design team plans to bring additional lighting and security cameras to the campus if Option A, near Pennypack Park, is chosen.

“Bringing a building to that portion of the site offers better surveillance, observance and security over a broader section of the campus,” said Luis Vildostegui of Stantec, an architecture firm that will consult the project.

The live survey showed 68 percent said bringing activity, lighting and security near Pennypack Park was very important, while 71 percent said visibility from Ryan and Rowland avenues was not important.

For environmental concerns, option “A” would be built on cleaner soil that would allow easier construction of the building. Option “B” would be built on foundations of the former Lincoln High School below the ground, which would require excavation and stabilization in the soil to support the new building.

“There is probably some added cost complexity to that,” he said.

Both options would require sports fields to be relocated. Option “A” would require the relocation of the Lincoln baseball fields, and “B” would require relocation of community sports fields. Relocating these fields would become its own separate project.

Voters took a clear stance on this option – 100 percent voted they would prefer to relocate the baseball field currently located at Option A instead of relocating the sports fields at Option B; and 100 percent said a high budget for the building itself rather than a higher budget for site development was the more important option.

The poll is still available online here. It will be open to response until Feb. 28. Full results will be posted online afterward.

As discussed in previous community meetings, projections show there could be a 500-seat deficiency in the Mayfair and Austin Meehan Middle School catchments by 2022 as population in the areas increase. The District plans to tear Meehan down and replace it with this new school, as Meehan is at approximately 40 percent of its capacity.

The project will be developed by Gilbane Development, Gilbane Building Company will build the project, and Stantec will be a sub-consultant in helping to design the project. The school has a proposed budget of $70 million.

City Councilman Bobby Henon attended both meetings.

“The community overwhelmingly, including myself, was adamant about site selection,” Henon told the Times. “A new school on the front yard of Lincoln is out of the question.”

He commended community involvement and engagement in the process and encouraged the community to keep voicing their concerns moving forward with the project.

“We’re in favor of Site A,” he said.

A community meeting to present the final site selection and design is planned for March 14. Construction is slated to begin in May.

The presentation can be viewed at www.philasd.org/capitalprograms/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2019/02/2-2019-Public-Meeting-for-Gilbane.pdf