SRC gives Green Woods the green light to expand

The School Reform Commission has approved the Green Woods Charter School’s application for an enrollment expansion, putting into place one key piece needed for the school’s planned move from Roxborough to the Greylock Manor mansion in Chestnut Hill.

With the approval, Green Woods can eventually triple its enrollment to 675 students. Right now the school, founded in 2002 and located in the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, has 225 students in kindergarten through 8th grade, at one classroom per grade.

Green Woods CEO Jean Wallace said she was “exhaling and sighing a big sigh of relief” after news of the SRC decision, which had been delayed several times. “We just feel good about the recognition that high quality charter schools should be allowed to expand.”

As part of a controversial, multi-phase plan to move to Greylock Manor, a 6.7-acre property at 209 W. Chestnut Hill Ave., Green Woods would eventually grow to three rooms per grade level.

Securing the permission to grow also makes it easier to seek financing for Greylock Manor, as lenders look for guarantees of future income before approving funding, Wallace said. The charter expansion permits the addition of 150 students for the 2012-2011 school year, then another 50 each year to a maximum of 675.

“The bank wants to know how you’re going to pay for this over the next 30 years, and we believe we can easily realize with 675 students,” she said, noting the school already has 117 families on a waiting list for kindergarten.

 

Shifting plans

Green Woods had hoped to start 150 students at Greylock in September, with the rest following the next year. But with months of community meetings and hearings ahead on the project, that plan is changing.

Instead, next year, 225 students — three classes each of kindergarten through second grade — will stay at the Roxborough campus, and grades three through eight will spend the year at a to-be-determined interim site. Green Woods has to vacate its current location in 2012 as part of a 2009 settlement with Eleanor Smith Morris, whose mother donated the land.

Wallace said the school is considering several locations in the Northwest, but she would not disclose specific locations. And despite some organized neighborhood opposition to Green Woods’ move to Greylock, Wallace said the school is still committed to moving there.

“We are actively pursuing Greylock and are continuing to pursue that,” she said. “We feel like we have a tremendous amount of support from the greater Chestnut Hill community.”

 

Awaiting nod from Historical Society

Green Woods’ fate is not yet secure: The property’s current owner, Greylock Holdings LLC, still needs the go-ahead from the Chestnut Hill Historical Society to amend historical easements it holds on the mansion and grounds. Some neighbors opposed to the move have formed a group called the Chestnut Hill Landmarks Committee and made clear their intention to block the easement amendments.

In a statement late Thursday to Plan Philly, Jennifer Hawk, the CHHS’s executive director, said “there is an outstanding issue with the owner, which we expect to be resolved shortly, before the Easement Committee can begin consideration of these requests.”

Hawk’s statement did not elaborate on what the issue involves but indicated the CHHS would be ready to move when it is settled. “In the meantime members of the Committee are previewing the documents to provide initial feedback as quickly as possible, once the owner issue is resolved,” she said.

Wallace said, to her knowledge, the issue with the current property owner has nothing to do with Green Woods and that Tom Maiorino, of Greylock Holdings, is actively working with the historical society to resolve it.

Once the Historical Society makes a ruling on the easements, the Chestnut Hill Historical Association’s various committees will begin looking at the plan.

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