by Madeleine Wattenbarger
When Green Woods Charter School began its search for a new site early this year, Chestnut Hill’s Greylock Manor seemed like a prime location. The prospect of repurposing an old building complemented the school’s eco-friendly ideals.
The mansion’s Fairmount Park backyard would serve as the ultimate classroom and playground. In April, CEO Jean Wallace told the Local that the building felt like “the one.”
“It would give us a chance to do what we preach,” she said.
But before Green Woods acquired the building, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society would have had to amend various preservation easements, and changes would be dramatic. The society typically alters easements only if changes will extend conservation efforts, but the school requested amendments to relax the standing guidelines. In May, the society denied the school’s request.
Green Woods currently occupies a portion of the Schuylkill Nature Center for Education in Roxborough. The school has found a home there since its 2002 founding.
So far, the site has accommodated it well: It holds 225 students, from Kindergarten through eighth grade. But the school will soon outgrow its location, as the School Reform Commission recently approved an increase to 675 students. And the lease at the Schuylkill Center runs out in August of 2012.
With growth, as always, has come struggle. Green Woods first sought to purchase another parcel of land owned by the Schuylkill Center, but the center refused the offer. School officials then turned their hopes to the vacant Greylock Manor on Chestnut Hill Avenue.
Now, Green Woods has sought out a parcel of land in lower Manayunk, where the 20-acre Germany Hill area remains undeveloped. Green Woods is considering a 1.3-acre site within an 8.3-acre tract at 201 Parker Avenue.
The location, between Ridge and Umbria streets, would provide ample wooded area for outdoor activities. It also offers the convenience of already-installed sewage and water lines. Proximity is a plus, too, as administrators seek to stay in the Northwest – relocation to Parker Avenue would entail a move of only a few miles.
Once again, though, despite the area’s suitability, prospects may still be shaky for Green Woods at Germany Hill. Neighbors have contested past proposals, most recently fighting a 2007 housing development proposal.
But a June 2 meeting with the Ridge Park Civic Association showed tentative promise for the school. The association agreed to form a group to meet with Green Woods’ representatives. Members will present the results of their discussions at a later meeting.