Inside Haverford lies a brotherhood, outside, a neighborhood. Residential buildings surround the school on three of its four sides meaning that keeping good relations with its neighbors is always a priority.
“I think it helps when you’re working with the community to be a good neighbor. Caring about the community is really important,” said Mr. Brian McBride ’82, Associate Head of School for External Affairs and Enrollment Management.
Prior to the pandemic, Haverford hosted recurring on-campus meetings with those living directly next to the school. During these gatherings, Mr. McBride and other faculty give updates on various projects the school is undertaking such as summer events, construction, or perhaps the next EA Day. This time was also used to discuss any complaints raised by neighbors. During one meeting in particular, neighbors were concerned whether contractors for the middle school construction would be parking on the streets. The school acknowledged the problem and made sure that they would park on campus instead.
Unfortunately, grievances over parking are not always handled so easily.
“We get feedback from neighbors when they’re unhappy with what’s going on and most often, it’s around parking,” said Mr. McBride.
One neighbor on Buck Lane has complained about students using their driveway to turn around because when pulling out, they often drive over the curb and atop her grass.
The largest problems occur when neighbors are frustrated by students who are parked in legal spots.
“If there is a neighbor who is dissatisfied with how our students are parking, we try to message the students, reminding them to be respectful when engaging with the community,” Head of the Upper School Mr. Mark Fifer said.
In order to get proposals approved by local commissioners, the school must be considerate of all neighbors. The school falls directly in between two counties: Montgomery and Delaware. If the school isn’t being kind to all of its neighbors, then that will reflect in the way both the Montgomery County Commissioner and Delaware County Commissioner work with the school.
Haverford alum Chris Strawbridge ’86 lives next to the school on Buck Lane, but was also on the board of the Friends School Haverford down the street and recounted similar stories about dealing with local officials during his time there.
“When we contemplated doing construction or anything that had an impact on the street, streetscape, or the neighbors, we needed to make sure that we could show the commissioners that we were good neighbors or at least making an attempt to do right by the neighbors. It makes a difference in their consideration of what’s happening,” Mr. Strawbridge said.
The one area Mr. Strawbridge feels that Haverford needs to address is speeding down Buck. While he acknowledges that it isn’t always Haverford students, there are still many times when he sees young drivers going too fast down a tight road filled with pedestrians and parked cars. Mr. Strawbridge even recalled the gruesome story of a dog being killed a few years ago by someone speeding between Haverford Road and Lancaster Avenue.
Despite some of their gripes with the school over parking, Mr. Strawbridge and other neighbors also appreciate what Haverford has to offer. Having access to a state-of-the-art track for running, outdoor basketball courts and nice walking paths is largely beneficial. During the holidays, in close proximity to the Christmas tree sale also makes their celebrations that much simpler.
“A regularly scheduled letter at the beginning of the school year, or to new neighbors who have moved in would build some excitement. It could say, ‘Here’s what we’re about, and here are the games we have scheduled.’ I think that could be done cheaply, and it would build a closer bond with the neighbors.”Mr. Chris Strawbridge ’86
Communication is the key to any relationship and different types of communications are more effective for different audiences. Mr. McBride is always striving to keep the neighborhood updated, even giving out his cell number to those who want to have direct access when things come up. The administration also sends out letters to give neighbors a “heads up” when things are occurring on campus that might affect traffic or people around the community.
These types of messages are appreciated by those who receive them.
“The times when the school knows it needs to speak out to the neighbors, like with construction, they do a great job in letting us know how that will impact the neighborhood,” Mr. Strawbridge said.
Still, Mr. Strawbridge feels that the school could do more, “I think a regularly scheduled letter at the beginning of the school year, or to new neighbors who have moved in would build some excitement. It could say, ‘Here’s what we’re about, and here are the games we have scheduled.’ I think that could be done cheaply, and it would build a closer bond with the neighbors.”