Site picked for new Mayfair school

The new $70 million elementary school will be built behind Lincoln High School, officials told residents at a pair of community meetings last week.

Nicole Ward, design manager for the School District of Philadelphia, right, and Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown, the district’s director of advocacy and external engagement, speak to residents Monday, May 20, at the Mayfair Civic Association meeting. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

The School District of Philadelphia, in a pair of community meetings last week, unveiled a site plan for the new elementary school to be built near Lincoln High School.

For many Mayfair residents, the news was good: The K-8 school, expected to serve about 1,600 students, will be constructed behind Lincoln High School — not in front, as some neighbors feared.

Representatives from the School District and its contractors presented the plan to the Mayfair Civic Association on May 20 and at a special meeting at Lincoln on Wednesday, May 22.

Sixth District Councilman Bobby Henon promised the new school would not be built in front of Lincoln last November, but the two meetings served as the first confirmation from the School District.

District representatives said they listened to the neighborhood and based their decision on feedback from residents at meetings and from online polls.

“The community overwhelmingly made its decision that they didn’t the school to be on the front yard of Lincoln for a host of reasons,” said Henon, who attended the Lincoln meeting. “It’s a victory. It’s good for the community.”

Officials hope to start construction on the $70 million project by the end of this year. The goal is to have the school finished by spring 2021.

Work is still being done on the design of the school building, district representatives said.

The new school doesn’t have a name yet, either, but it does have a principal. Dywonne Davis-Harris was introduced to parents and residents as the school’s principal at the Lincoln meeting.

Davis-Harris, who lives in the Northeast, has been with the School District for 20 years and has spent the last decade as principal of Potter-Thomas Promise Academy in Fairhill.

“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m part of the community. I’ve been in the community for about two decades, and I’m for the community.”

School District of Philadelphia officials field questions Monday, May 20, at the Mayfair Civic Association meeting after making a presentation of the site plan for the new elementary school. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

To accommodate the school, Lincoln’s softball and baseball fields will be relocated. The baseball field will be moved to an open area just east of the high school, and the softball field will be shifted up toward Rowland Avenue next to the recreation center.

For the next two seasons, the teams that practice and play on the baseball and softball fields will be moved to a remote location, said Nicole Ward, the district’s design manager.

Keeping the public fields in front of Lincoln was a priority of the community, so those will stay, district representatives said.

The vehicle entrance to the new school will be on Rowland Avenue at Shelmire Street, which currently serves as Lincoln’s service entrance.

There will be two parking loops for the elementary school — a smaller one for parent drop-off and parking and a larger one for school buses and faculty. Members of the design team said it is safer to segregate the traffic.

Pedestrian walkways will be laid out from the new school to Ryan and Rowland avenues. The school will be set far back from the street — about two-and-a-half blocks from Ryan and four blocks from Rowland.

During the construction process, deliveries will be made at the Lincoln service entrance and coordinated to not disturb opening and dismissal times, according to the presentation.

Austin Meehan Middle School will be torn down, and the area will be turned into green space, officials said.

Catchment zone boundaries have not been determined yet. The School District has hired Cooperative Strategies to study the issue. Officials have said that the catchment areas for Brown, Forrest, Mayfair, Pollock and Holme schools would be affected.

The new school is being built to help deal with overcrowding at those schools, especially Mayfair Elementary. The neighborhood’s population has been growing at a steady clip in recent years.

There have been about a dozen community meetings so far about the project, and officials promised to come back to the community before construction.

“All this is going to come back to you many times as this moves forward,” Henon said.

Gilbane and Stantec are the firms working with the School District on the project.

For additional information about the new school, visit www.philasd.org/capitalprograms/newschoolonryanave. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.