Green Woods Charter School preps for move to Domino Lane

With an interim site for next year now in place, the Green Woods Charter School is moving ahead with plans for a new home off Domino Lane in Roxborough.

The environmentally-focused charter school will be out of its current home, on the campus of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough, at the end of its lease term on June 30. Classes will begin in September in the former St. John the Baptist and St. Mary of the Assumption school buildings in Manayunk, with Green Woods adding two more classes each for kindergarten, first and second grades.

The private Academy in Manayunk recently left the former parish school buildings, bound for its new home in a 50,000 square foot site on River Road in Conshohocken. Green Woods CEO Jean Wallace said her school has signed its lease with the Archdiocese in Philadelphia for St. John’s and St. Mary’s, and will be ready to begin the next school year there after some minor site work.

The stay in Manayunk would be a temporary stop while a new facility and campus are created on 5.5 acres, including what is now the Keenan’s Valley View Inn property, 468 Domino Lane. Wallace said Green Woods has a preliminary agreement with owner Mike Keenan, but many details — including a final sales price — are still being worked out. The school will also need a zoning use variance, as the site is now classified for residential use.

“We are going through the due diligence process with the Keenan’s site,” Wallace said. “In Philadelphia, that means doing a lot of leg work up front, to make the zoning process move more smoothly.”

Part of that leg work will involve meeting with the Ridge Park Civic Association to present the school’s plans and ideally gain the group’s support. RPCA’s next quarterly meeting is March 1, and Wallace said the school hopes to appear then.

RCPA officials said Tuesday they haven’t seen enough information on Green Woods’ proposal for the Domino Lane site to make even a preliminary judgment. But the Keenan’s site would seem to offer fewer potential complications than the two previous sites the school considered, in Chestnut Hill and on Manayunk’s Germany Hill.

Designs and site plan renderings for the new Green Woods campus were released as part of a well-attended open house the charter school held last week — an event that had to be moved to the ACE Conference Center on Ridge Pike after more than 400 families registered to attend.

The new 60,000 square foot facility, designed by Joe Jancuska of j2a Architects, will include 27 classrooms to accommodate the 675 K-8 students Green Woods’ charter allows. Students will enter the school on a ground-level bridge connected to the administration area, and a second-floor connector bridge will be enclosed in glass. There will be a gymnasium with a large flex space adjacent, to be used for assemblies and events. Three learning hubs for music, art and science will each have classrooms with adjacent outdoor spaces and “lots of glass, so there will be that feeling of being in the woods,” Jancuska said.

The new site’s design takes advantage of the seclusion and the topography, linking areas with bridges and using collected rainwater to feed ponds that will become part of outdoor learning spaces.

Jancuska visited sites all over the Northwest with school officials, and said the Keenan’s property stood out because it offered the feeling of seclusion in the woods, with easy access and egress. A bonus, Jancuska said, is the fact that the site is largely untouched but already connected to city services because of its current use.

“Everything’s there, we’re not disturbing things to bring in sewer or water, we’re just tying in to existing things that are already on Domino Lane,” he said.

Amy Z. Quinn writes under a partnership agreement between Plan Philly and NewsWorks. Contact her at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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