Gospel of Grace School to find new home after academic year

Lead­ers of a Fox Chase church may have had a change of heart re­gard­ing their ef­fort to pre­vent the city from shut­ting down a private sec­ond­ary school that the church opened last year to the sur­prise and dis­may of neigh­bors.

In­ter­im Pas­tor Dav­id Brown of Fox Chase United Meth­od­ist Church an­nounced last Wed­nes­day that he does not ex­pect the school to op­er­ate in his church bey­ond the cur­rent aca­dem­ic year.

“The school will not be there after they close in June, so there’s no is­sue there,” Brown said dur­ing the bi­monthly meet­ing of the Fox Chase Homeown­ers As­so­ci­ation and Town Watch. “And I would hope as oth­er pro­jects come up, the church will con­tin­ue to be the good neigh­bor that they’ve been for well over 100 years.”

As for a pending ap­peal filed by the church with the city’s De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tion, Brown said, “I think that we will be with­draw­ing the ap­peal. I think that’s what’s been de­cided.”

A group of neigh­bors has been at odds with Fox Chase United, at Lo­ney and Fill­more streets, over the school since the start of the cur­rent aca­dem­ic year last fall. Nearby res­id­ents began no­ti­cing teen­agers ar­riv­ing at and de­part­ing from the church each school day. The neigh­bors soon learned that an in­sti­tu­tion known as Gos­pel of Grace Chris­ti­an School had moved about 30 stu­dents in grades sev­en through 12 in­to Fox Chase United as part of an agree­ment with the church.

Pre­vi­ously, Gos­pel of Grace had been leas­ing the former Chel­ten­ham United Meth­od­ist Church in nearby Chel­ten­ham Town­ship for its ele­ment­ary and sec­ond­ary stu­dents. Fox Chase United owns that prop­erty, too. When the school’s en­roll­ment grew bey­ond the leg­al ca­pa­city of the Chel­ten­ham site, Fox Chase United in­vited the school to bring some stu­dents to the Fox Chase site.

Neigh­bors com­plained of noise, traffic and pub­lic safety threats, among oth­er qual­ity-of-life is­sues. Fur­ther, they ques­tioned how someone could open a school without in­put from them. They sought help from the Fox Chase Homeown­ers As­so­ci­ation, City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill and oth­er of­fi­cials.

Church of­fi­cials claimed that they had con­sul­ted with L&I and been in­formed that the school was al­lowed there as a mat­ter of right. Non­ethe­less, the city agency in­spec­ted the site and in Janu­ary is­sued a vi­ol­a­tion no­tice to the church, claim­ing that the school could not be con­sidered an “ac­cess­ory” use of the prop­erty. That is, it would be leg­al if the church had opened its own school. But in this case, the church and the school are sep­ar­ate en­tit­ies, ac­cord­ing to the vi­ol­a­tion.

Fox Chase United filed an ap­peal. The L&I Re­view Board is sched­uled to hear the case at a pub­lic ses­sion on June 10. In ad­vance of last week’s Homeown­ers and Town Watch meet­ing, O’Neill said he in­ten­ded to at­tend the hear­ing on be­half of con­stitu­ents. At the time, Brown had not dis­closed that the church was plan­ning to with­draw the ap­peal.

After Brown’s an­nounce­ment, neigh­bors ap­plauded. Homeown­ers Pres­id­ent Matt Braden said that his or­gan­iz­a­tion would con­tin­ue to mon­it­or the ap­peal pending the sched­uled hear­ing.

In un­re­lated busi­ness:

• Fox Chase res­id­ent Jean Gav­in re­cited a let­ter she had writ­ten to May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter ad­voc­at­ing for the in­stall­a­tion of side­walks along Ox­ford Av­en­ue between Rock­well and Har­tel av­en­ues.

The ab­sence of side­walks on those blocks leaves no dir­ect, safe walk­ing route between the Fox Chase busi­ness dis­trict and the Five Points busi­ness dis­trict in Burholme, said Gav­in, who ad­ded that high weeds, bill­boards and trees block ped­es­tri­an ac­cess along the highly traveled vehicle route, which serves as a state high­way (Route 232). 

A sur­face-level com­muter rail­road in­ter­sects Ox­ford Av­en­ue in the area.

• Capt. Frank Palumbo, the com­mand­er of the 2nd Po­lice Dis­trict, told res­id­ents that, des­pite an in­crease in hom­icides in the dis­trict so far this year, the Fox Chase area has been spared from the spike in vi­ol­ence. Mean­while, rob­ber­ies and burg­lar­ies are down for the year in the dis­trict.

Palumbo said that de­tect­ives are mak­ing pro­gress in the in­vest­ig­a­tions of two home in­va­sion hom­icide cases, in­clud­ing a double murder on the 300 block of Stevens St. on Jan. 19 and a triple murder on the the 6300 block of Mar­tins Mill Road on Feb. 13.

• The Cpl. John Loudensla­ger Amer­ic­an Le­gion Post 366, 7976 Ox­ford Ave., will sell ar­ti­fi­cial pop­pies in hon­or of fallen vet­er­ans on May 23 and 24 out­side the Le­gion hall. Pop­pies rep­res­ent re­birth be­cause in the af­ter­math of World War I, they were the first wild­flowers to grow in the bar­ren bat­tle­fields.

The Le­gion post also in­vites the pub­lic to par­ti­cip­ate in an­nu­al Me­mori­al Day ce­re­mon­ies. In ad­vance of the May 26 com­mem­or­a­tion, mem­bers of Boy Scouts Troop 290 and Cub Scouts Pack 290 will dec­or­ate vet­er­ans’ graves in Lawn­view Cemetery. On Me­mori­al Day, a pro­ces­sion will meet at Vin­cent’s Pizza, 412 Hunt­ing­don Pike in Rockledge, at 10 a.m. and walk to the cemetery.

In an­oth­er Le­gion activ­ity, the Post 366 base­ball team, de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons of the Phil­adelphia Le­gion league, will play its home open­er on May 24 at 5 p.m. at Fox Chase Re­cre­ation Cen­ter. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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