CBA amendment clears way for new Mayfair school

The process is expected to be smoother now with an amended community benefits agreement with more details about improvements to the Lincoln campus.

Rendering of new K-8 school planned for the area behind Lincoln High School. SOURCE: SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA

A project to build a new K-8 school in Mayfair appears to have cleared its final remaining obstacle.

The School District of Philadelphia and community leaders hammered out an amendment to a community benefits agreement signed in November, clarifying several details and speeding up aspects of the deal. 

District leaders agreed to refurbish two existing athletic fields in Abraham Lincoln High School’s front yard, near Ryan and Rowland avenues, and construct two new fields, according to a copy of the amendment acquired by the Times.

The fields will be open to nonprofit youth and recreational organizations when not in use by students. 

In addition, the new CBA calls for all fencing and field improvements to be completed by the time the new school opens, a change from the original agreement, which had one field not ready until a year after the school is supposed to open. 

The city is kicking in funding to help pay for a portion of the upgrades, Henon’s chief of staff, Courtney Voss, said. 

“A lot of it was clarity,” Henon said of the changes. “It’s more clear now because it’s defined, it’s spelled out, it’s in writing.”

Perhaps most importantly, it gets more neighborhood leaders on board and clears the way for work to get started on the site.

Democratic ward leader Pete McDermott, who has expressed concerns about the process, agreed to sign the amended CBA and, as part of the deal, dropped his legal appeal of a zoning decision allowing the school to be built.

His appeal, which attorneys for the district and developer said threatened the entire project, was quashed by a judge in February for being late.

McDermott later withdrew his appeal entirely and told the Times the 64th Ward does not plan to pursue further legal action.

In addition to more specifics about fields and fencing, the amendment spells out details about new lighting around the Lincoln campus and calls for a school security liaison to meet with the Mayfair community four times a year. 

“It just cleared up a lot of the confusion the original agreement may have presented,” said Mayfair Civic Association President Donny Smith, who signed the original CBA. 

Despite the extensive community engagement process, the timeline for the school has not changed. It is still scheduled to open at the start of the 2021-22 school year, a district spokesperson said.

The 180,000-square-foot school is being built behind Lincoln to accommodate 1,660 students in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding at nearby elementary schools. ••

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