New plan for students at mold-plagued Montco school

Posted: February 07, 2014

CHELTENHAM The Cheltenham Township school board has dropped its plan to relocate two-thirds of its middle school students to Gratz College and will move them instead to sites in Cheltenham and Springfield Townships.

The Montgomery County district has been scrambling since fall to find alternative classrooms for the 750 students at Cedarbrook Middle School, which is plagued by mold and expected to be uninhabitable by spring.

At a special meeting Tuesday night, the board approved a plan to lease space in the old Pathmark building on Ivy Hill Road in Springfield Township, and at St. Joseph Parish on Waters Road in Cheltenham.

The news came as a surprise, since the district in December had presented Gratz as the only option. Superintendent Natalie Thomas told parents that the two new sites had not been considered before because they were not listed as available.

"We didn't know about it. It became a possibility over winter break," Thomas said of the Pathmark site.

Gratz would have required extensive renovations and would have only been able to accommodate at most half of Cedarbrook's students. The remaining students would have been split among the high school and two elementary schools.

The new plan calls for all three seventh-grade teams and one eighth-grade team to go to the Pathmark building. The building in recent years had been outfitted as a charter school, so it is equipped with a cafeteria, gym, and science lab.

A second eighth grade team will be at Cheltenham High School, and the third will be at St. Joseph.

The leases will go through the 2015-16 school year, with an option to extend for another year. Building a new middle school will likely take five years, so another interim arrangement may be necessary.

The students will move in three phases, beginning March 3 or 10. That will require zoning approvals by Springfield Township at a Feb. 26 meeting.

"Right now, believe it or not, snow and ice are our friends," Thomas said. If the district can't get students out before the snow on the roof begins to melt, she said, "it's not going to be a good situation."

610-313-8117 @JS_Parks

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