Oak Lane Day School to relocate in 2010 Economic challenges have forced the sale of the 30-acre campus. The school will remain in Blue Bell for the next academic year.

Posted: April 25, 2009

The worsening economy is taking a toll on Oak Lane Day School in Blue Bell.

The local pioneer in progressive education is selling its bucolic, 30-acre campus in Blue Bell to survive and will have to find a new home after 2009-10.

Karl Walsh, head of the school, with 90 students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade, yesterday reiterated points made in a letter sent last week to parents and alumni telling them about the decision.

"The offer for the entire property was the only way to ensure that Oak Lane Day School has sufficient resources to deliver the same richness in programming for the 2009 camp season and the 2009-10 school year," he said.

He stressed that the school, founded in 1916, would remain in Blue Bell for the next academic year and was making plans to move to a new location. He declined further comment.

According to the letter to Oak Lane families, the school had hoped the sale of a portion of the property would provide enough money to stabilize its finances.

But, due to the depressed real estate market, the offers for the smaller amount of property fell short, and the school accepted an offer for the entire property. The sale price was not disclosed.

"Entering the process of selling school property in the winter of 2009, we knew that the real estate market was depressed, and the Realtors advised us that we would not know the current value of the property until offers were made," said the letter signed by both Welsh and Chris Meyer, president of the board of trustees.

The offers came in below the amount suggested in an appraisal by "a conservative bank" and valuations of similar properties.

Oak Lane officials wrote that the school would create committees of teachers, parents and board members to develop a vision for the school for 2010-11 at a new site.

The school is at Stenton Avenue and Butler Pike in Whitpain Township. The leafy, rolling campus includes a pond, streams and woods.

Oak Lane's Web site says that 90 students between ages 3 and 12 are enrolled this year. Tuition rates were not available.

This is not the first time Oak Lane has been forced to find a new home.

In 1960, after three decades of being part of Temple University and used for Temple's teacher-training program, Temple dissolved what was then known as the Oak Lane Country Day School. Parents and teachers rallied to save the school, which was renamed and reborn as an independent school.

Oak Lane School operated out of temporary facilities in Glenside until it moved to its current site in Blue Bell in 1964.

The school was founded in Cheltenham in 1916 by parents and educators during the days of the Progressive Education Movement, which produced several child-centered approaches that focused on learning by doing.

Oak Lane's philosophy calls for giving children opportunities to learn through discovery and developing their self-esteem through creative expression.

Contact staff writer Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com.

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