Residents question proposed ramp to Jenks schoolyard

A sketch of the Jenks ramp plans.

A sketch of the Jenks ramp plans.

Chestnut Hill resident Judy Muenzberg said she and her neighbors are concerned that the School District of Philadelphia never notified the community of its plans to build a ramp from the 8300 block of Ardleigh Street to J.S. Jenks Academy for the Arts and Sciences, 8301 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill.

In a recent telephone interview with the Chestnut Hill Local, Muenzberg said Ardleigh Street neighbors are not necessarily opposed to the ramp. She pointed out that residents would just like to meet with the school district so that any renovations or proposed plans to build a ramp from the 8300 block of Ardleigh Street do not alter the schoolyard.

She recently wrote a letter, signed by residents on the 8300 block of Ardleigh Street, to Mayor James Kenney, Dr. William Hite, Jean McCoubrey of the Chestnut Hill Community Association Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, James Sanderson, board president, Friends of the Children’s Park, and the local media requesting that construction plans be put on hold until the school district meets with the community to “fully disclose” its plans and to “seriously consider and respond” to residents’ concerns and input.

In the letter, she said that members of the community “have tried repetitively to solicit precise information on the project from the school district, and received a curt reply from the project manager, informing us that the plans gone out to bid, and they were FINAL.”

Muenzberg said even though the project plans are in the school’s principal’s office, they can only be seen during school hours at the principal’s convenience.

She said although she was able to meet with Mary Lynskey, J.S. Jenks’ principal, to review the plans, she was not able to make a copy of the plans or take a picture of them with her phone.

Muenzberg said the construction of the ramp is scheduled to begin in March and conclude in August, but that “no one connected with the CHCA and its DRC is aware of any permits.”

Lynskey said residents are upset over “unfounded rumors” that the playground or schoolyard would be altered.

“At no time was the ramp planned for Germantown Avenue access, so the playground was never mentioned in the plan,” she said. “A parking lot is not part of the ramp project plan. The emergency ramp will give emergency service vehicles access to our schoolyard enabling ambulatory care for students, staff and visitors with seizures or injuries.”

She added that the ramp will also provide access for delivery trucks, whose drivers “currently refuse to climb steps into our building to make timely deliveries.”

She said the ramp will also enable the school through its “parent organization to contract a small plow to clear snow, so students can go out for recess as the weather warms.”

Ryan Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, said J.S. Jenks is a valued institution in Chestnut Hill.

“It is one of the key reasons why young families move into the area and why so many of our children are at their educational best,” he said. “It is imperative that the school operates in an open and fair way to let the neighbors and general community, who strongly support the school, learn about the imminent plans for construction. As a neighborhood that is unique in the preservation of historic integrity, we are all interested in hearing if the plans for the school keep these same fundamental interests.”