Dividing a campus, uniting a community

This September, Haverford’s faculty and student leaders commenced the year with a call for personal and communal integrity. With the value of integrity in mind, the community sees fresh opportunities and challenges with the newly-purchased property on 452 South Roberts Road—a 43-acre estate two miles away from the main campus. 

Five months after the last update, Head of School Mr. Tyler Casertano further reveals the planning and decisions behind this purchase.

“Before, we didn’t want to get people to mismanage their expectations. It felt premature to start talking about what you might do with something that you don’t yet own,” Mr. Casertano said. “We closed on the property in late June, which means we can finally start having more transparent conversations about our process and our intentions.”

To preserve the integrity of the community, Mr. Casertano and the Board of Trustees collaborate to resolve the physical limitations of having two separate campuses miles apart. 

“That is the question on my mind: how do we preserve the level of togetherness with this new element of separateness?” Mr. Casertano said. “We are now finalizing the process to create the shared vision for the use of this new campus and our main campus. We now see this 43 acres as a part of the Haverford School’s 70 acres.”

“We now see this 43 acres as a part of the Haverford School’s 70 acres.”

Mr. tYLER Casertano, hEAD OF sCHOOL

Learning from precedence, Mr. Casertano and the Board of Trustees identified a handful of schools that have experienced similar processes to understand how they worked through challenges using interesting tactics to preserve and enhance their sense of community. 

“We went to a school in Connecticut this summer that went through a very similar process 20 years ago, and their Head of School said, ‘it’s only about now, 20 years later, that it feels as though we, as a school, have fully developed this land and brought our vision to life,’” Mr. Casertano said. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to take 20 years for our students to be getting use at that place. The steps we take to develop this land are going to be iterative and ongoing.”

Before the School initiates major projects for the property, some upper school teachers have already developed plans for utilizing this space.

Upper School Science Department Chair Dr. Daniel Goduti has been teaching Environmental Science* for Sixth Formers. This year, he hopes to utilize this property for a major unit of the class concerning sustainable development. 

“I visited the new property with the faculty at the start of the year,” Dr. Goduti said. “It was a school property. It’s got sports fields and areas of trees. The approach of our project is going to be looking at how we sustainably develop this site. It’s both a convenient location and also a real question that the school will address in the next couple of years.”

“The approach of our project is going to be looking at how we sustainably develop this site. It’s both a convenient location and also a real question that the school will address in the next couple of years.”

Dr. Daniel Goduti, sCIENCE dEPARTMENT cHAIR

Dr. Goduti plans to take his Environmental Science class on field trips to the new property, where they will analyze the local ecosystem and propose hypothetical development projects with sustainability in mind. 

“In terms of thinking about sustainability, we’ll analyze the flora and fauna that are there, examine what kinds of ecosystems are present, think about ways we can support those ecosystems, and make predictions about how those ecosystems might be affected if we were to build infrastructures in the fields,” said Dr. Goduti.

Aside from research projects, the Haverford cross-country team, coached by Mr. Brian Long, arranges to develop a course through the vast fields of the property and race against other schools on Haverford soil. 

“We’re excited to use the South Roberts Road property in a variety of ways for cross country,” Mr. Long said. “Most importantly, it’s going to enable us to host our own cross-country races, the first of which will be in October. We’re in the process of defining a course that we’ll be able to use for many years to come.”

“it’s going to enable us to host our own cross-country races… We’re in the process of defining a course that we’ll be able to use for many years to come.”

mR. bRIAN lONG, CRoss-Country Coach

Mr. Long also took a visit to the new property. He is satisfied with the conditions of the land and has designed a 2.4-km loop which runners will do twice with add-ons towards the finish line to complete a 5-km race. 

“It’s pretty ideal,” Mr. Long said. “The course gives spectators the chance to see runners come by multiple times, but with enough variety that it will be interesting and challenging for the runners. There are some rolling hills involved as well.”

However, since the team’s varsity and Sixth Form runners test-ran the property on September 15, some suggest that the course will need some work before it gets put into use. There are too many holes and bumps under the grass-covered course—very unfriendly for the runners’ ankles. 

Mr. Long is currently discussing runners’ suggestions about evening out the course with the Director of Athletics Mr. Michael Murphy. They will develop a solution to these proposed issues before the cross-country team’s October race at the property.

Mr. Casertano endorses faculty plans to find immediate uses in this new space. He notes that students and faculty will also contribute to the long-term development of this property by communicating with the steering committee.

“The students will play an important role in providing us with their perceptions of what The Haverford School needs to become.”

Mr. Tyler Casertano, Head of School

“The first piece is understanding what the usage will be and whether or not the infrastructure is in place to do that safely,” Mr. Casertano said. “We are excited about introducing this space in limited ways to students in the immediate future. There will also be a steering committee finalized in the coming weeks to interact with the community broadly. The students will play an important role in providing us with their perceptions of what The Haverford School needs to become.”

Author: Jingyuan Chen '23

Jingyuan Chen has written for The Index since 2019. His news piece “Inside the middle school construction project” and his opinion “What can the U.S. learn from Chinese media censorship?” each earned a Silver Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Writing Awards.