School drops plan for church space

A Bustleton church prob­ably will with­draw its ap­plic­a­tion for a zon­ing vari­ance that would have al­lowed it to rent classrooms to a charter school.

A hear­ing sched­uled for Ju­ly 6 be­fore the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment was con­tin­ued be­cause the ap­plic­a­tion be­came a non-is­sue a week earli­er, said Her­cules Gri­gos, at­tor­ney for St. Thomas Syro-Malab­ar Cath­ol­ic Church.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives of First Phil­adelphia Charter School had told church mem­bers they were no longer in­ter­ested in the Welsh Road prop­erty, Gri­gos said in a phone in­ter­view on Fri­day, so it was likely the church would drop its re­quest for the city’s OK.

A vari­ance was ne­ces­sary be­cause the church’s neigh­bor­hood on the 600 block of Welsh Road is zoned res­id­en­tial.

James Stan­ton, dir­ect­or of com­mu­nic­a­tions and com­munity re­la­tions for First Phil­adelphia Charter School for Lit­er­acy, last week said the school was not in the mar­ket to rent classrooms.

It had been.

First Phil­adelphia had looked at sev­er­al sites, Stan­ton said, be­cause the school has plans to open a second cam­pus. The charter wanted to rent space at St. Thomas for kinder­garten and first grade for two years while it erects a new build­ing. He said the classrooms on the church’s prop­erty were in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion and were well-suited to the charter’s needs. 

Cur­rently, however, there is a cap on how many pu­pils a charter may have, Stan­ton said in a phone in­ter­view. He said the Ta­cony charter has a long wait­ing list and would have had no prob­lem filling an­oth­er school, but that cap has yet to be lif­ted, he said, so there is no reas­on to enter in­to a rent­al agree­ment with St. Thomas.

In May, Stan­ton told mem­bers of the Great­er Bustleton Civic League that the charter ex­pec­ted 150 pu­pils would be in kinder­garten and first grade. The 75 kinder­garten pu­pils would be driv­en to the school. The first-graders could be bused, he said. The school would be open Monday through Fri­day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and have 15 to 20 em­ploy­ees.

In May, one res­id­ent said Welsh Road is dan­ger­ous in that area, and that many drivers speed down the street. He said he had re­placed five mail­boxes that had been hit by drivers. “We don’t need no more traffic,” he said.

A syn­agogue, Temple Beth Torah, had been on the prop­erty, and a Hebrew school had op­er­ated after-school classes there once, the civic league’s pres­id­ent, John McK­eever, had said, but the build­ing had not been a full-time school. ••

Re­port­er John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or

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