Representatives of the newly formed Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School have presented plans to expand the current St. Alphonsus campus with two modular classroom units ahead of next year's merging of three area elementary schools to the location.
The Maple Glen location was selected for the fall 2012 merging of St. Anthony-St. Joseph, St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Alphonsus elementary schools.
The plans, presented to the Upper Dublin Planning Commission Tuesday night, call for the installation of two single-story units, occupying 5,805 square feet, in one of two locations along the building's southwest side. The plan also includes an enclosed walkway to connect the units to the main building.
Attorney Debra Shulski, representing the school, said the campus previously had expansion plans for a gymnasium, parking, and classrooms approved by the township in 2002.
"At that time, it was anticipated there would be 650 students occupying the campus in 2012, and currently there are only 382," Shulski said, adding that enrollment would likely still fall below 650 even after merging. "The numbers are still in a state of flux, but to date we're anticipating and hoping for about 575."
Shulski added that the school requires the modular units in order to keep currently existing classrooms designated for science, music and art.
The application requests approval for a five-year lease of the units, after which the school would consider its options to either permanently expand or renew its leases, Shulski said.
"Over those five years we'll have a pretty good indication of whether the school is growing or perhaps shrinking," Shulski said. "We would be agreeable as a condition of approval to revisiting that issue and coming back before the township."
Planning Commission members and local residents expressed concerns over an increase in traffic and overflow of parking. A family living on Conwell Drive, which vehicles use to exit the campus after picking up students, said that cars often park on the street during major events as it provides easy access to the gymnasium.
However, principal David Hayden said the school only anticipates an increase of 20 cars, from 46 to 66, at dismissal time, and only plans to add an additional four buses. Hayden also said that the campus' 297 parking spaces are more than adequate for major events and services, and that the school's public safety officials would renew efforts to educate visitors not to park on Conwell Drive.
Staffing would increase from 37 to about 45, Hayden said.
The Planning Commission did not find any major faults with the application, but asked that the school's representatives return in April in order to develop more concrete enrollment numbers and communicate further with township engineers. If approved by the commission in April, the application would appear before the Board of Commissioners for final passage in May.