Haverford is not the only educational institution with a soon-to-be-built, brand new middle school. Due to gradual enrollment increases in lower grades, Lower Merion School District has begun plans to build a new middle school, set to open in September 2022.
After some backlash from local conservationists over the use of a public garden at Stoneleigh for the new athletic fields, the district was forced to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, after finally settling on a new location, the district learned that Villanova University had entered into an agreement with the homeowners to purchase their land. This forced the district to, after “unsuccessfully negotiating with the property owners for an amicable purchase,” invoke eminent domain in order to secure the property. The new middle school will be located at 1860 Montgomery Ave. in Villanova, while additional athletic fields will be located at 1835 County Line Road and 1800 W. Montgomery Ave.
According to an update published on the LMSD website, “This new school will alleviate crowding at the six existing elementary schools and two existing middle schools by moving fifth-graders out of the elementary schools and distributing the middle school population among three schools instead of two.”
The change from a sixth through eighth elementary school to fifth through eighth might seem drastic. LMSD Director of School & Community Relations Amy Buckman said, “Locally, both Upper Merion and Tredyffrin-Easttown have 5-8 middle schools. The new school design features ‘Learning Communities’ on different floors. This makes it so that the curriculum and programming of different grades’ learning communities could take place on separate floors or separate parts of floors.”
Planned in a similar style to Welsh Valley Middle School, another middle school of the LMSD, this new middle school would be somewhat similar to common California-style campuses, featuring an open gathering space called “The Heart” as well as a green courtyard with many classrooms opening onto it. The initial architects’ presentation, which has since undergone a few improvements, can be viewed on the LMSD website.
Students attending Penn Wynne and Gladwyne will be affected, as students attending the two schools will be moved from their current middle schools to the new one. The current plan is to slowly transition students to the new middle school starting with only fifth and sixth grade in 2022-2023, and eventually filling all four grades by the 2024-2025 school year.