by Pete Mazzaccaro
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy announced last week that it had secured the financing it needed to begin work on a brand-new lower school building. A $5 million boost from the family of Peter McCausland helped push the project forward. The school has decided to name the new building after the family.
Peter McCausland, chairman and CEO of Airgas, served on the board of trustees at Springside School. His wife, Bonnie, served on the Chestnut Hill Academy board of trustees. Their children, Chris and Elizabeth, graduated from the school in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
“It was a family decision led by my children, Chris and Lizzie, who have many fond memories of their days at CHA and Springside,” said Peter McCausland, “This gift is a vote of confidence in the school and its administration for the great job they do.”
The new McCausland Lower School and Commons as the building will formally be called, is phase two of a strategic plan SCH began when it completed an extensive fields renovation four years ago. The new building was put on the back burner the last two years as the school searched for and then hired new Head of School Steve Druggan. But now school officials said they’ll begin construction as soon as the current school year ends in June.
The new building will be a three-story structure that will house all the school’s students between pre-K and fourth grade. Once the new school is completed, SCH will create a middle school on the grounds of what used to be Springside School and move the upper school to the campus of what was Chestnut Hill Academy – the Wissahickon Inn and its adjacent structures, including the new science center.
That master plan was the work of the Philadelphia architectural firm WRT. The plan for the new lower school was recently completed by New Studio Design in Minnesota.
Druggan told the Local that the new building will not add to the student population, in part because it is replacing a lower school that is currently part of the old Springside School – now referred to as the Cherokee Campus – and that the approximately 1,000 students at the school “feels right.”
A hallmark of the McCausland Lower School and Commons is its relationship with the Wissahickon park. A recent trail system in a section of the park owned by SCH was completed two years ago and will connect the school directly to the park in a way school officials hope will enhance education opportunities for lower school students.
It was very purposefully designed to tie this building to the park,” said Frank Aloise, SCH’s chief financial officer. “The kids can walk out the door and they’re hiking and doing environmental science.”
In addition, Druggan said that there were numerous aspects of the new construction and plan in general that will provide new venues and resources for the community, including a planned outdoor amphitheater.
“[The building] takes full advantage of this incredible place where we are,” he said. “This is a place where the kids will be connected to the natural world. I think it really is an incredible combination of being true to our rich history here, but with a future focus.”
Aloise said that construction plan would have virtually no impact on students while the building is built. He expects students to move in the building in Fall of 2019 for the start of that school year. Once the move has happened, the school will embark on phase three of the plan – a modernization of classroom space in the Wissahickon Inn. Aloise said the planning is not yet complete on that phase but expects it to begin soon.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org