The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

A new future for Oakwell

Read about the new plans for Oakwell that were recently discussed by School Board members and student advocates.

Over the past several months, LMSD’s use of the Oakwell property has remained a major concern of the township. It has become a battle between School Board members planning to use the space for fields and environmentalists advocating for the preservation of the tree population. Recently, however, the School Board seems to be reconsidering their original plan for Oakwell.

LMSD’s initial plan was to cut down over 450 trees on the Oakwell property to build a baseball and softball field as well as two auxiliary multi-sport fields. To ease the field plan- ning process, the school district divided the property in two sections, the front and back. The front section contains about 500 trees and was the proposed location for the base- ball and softball fields. The back section of Oakwell contains around 100-150 trees and was the intended site for the auxiliary fields. To make enough room for all four fields, over 400 trees would need to be cut down. Some local citizens accepted this decision because they want Black Rock students to have an accessible place to play school sports. Some environmentalists, however, expressed outrage over the district’s plan due to its potential to add to the vicious cycle of global warming and climate change.

On January 11, Dr. Khalid Mumin, Lower Merion’s former Superintendent and cur- rent Secretary of Education of Pennsylvania, met with LM’s Environmental Club to discuss the future for Oakwell as he left the district. Mumin came back with new ideas for the future of BRMS athletics and the environ- ment. Upon further consideration, the School Board decided that their original plan is not wise for the district and cutting down 400+ trees is excessive. To avoid jeopardizing Black Rock athletics and the planet, the Board has been working on a compromise. The auxiliary fields are still needed and would be built at Oakwell under the new plan. However, the baseball and softball fields are no longer a necessity on the Oakwell property. Instead, the school has been looking to partner with the own- ers of existing fields to provide students at the new middle school a place to play. This is how LMHS and BCMS offer their baseball and soft- ball programs, and it has worked well for those teams. The school would not own the fields, but students would be given access to use them similar to how LM boys baseball plays at South Ardmore Park. Haverford Township, Lower Merion Township, and LMSD have announced an agreement that they formed that will allow BRMS students to practice at the Polo Field in Haverford Township. At the moment, this agreement is only tentative, however, some feel this decision is a huge breakthrough for the future of Oakwell.

At one of the recent School Board meetings concerning Oakwell, the heads of LM Environmental Club, Noa Fohrer ’23 and Willa Godfrey ’24, and the heads of LM’s SAGE, Julia Dubnoff ’23 and Sam Donagi ’25, handed the board a proposal, entitled Action Center for Organizing Resilience and Natural Sustainability Education (ACORNSE), that they had created with the help of both clubs’ members. The ACORNSE proposal included the use of the Oakwell property to educate students on the environment and sustain- ability rather than the initial designation of the property for fields. As a result of the student persuasion, the school board is planning on turning Oakwell’s greenhouse into an educational center. Fohrer ’23, reflected on this decision, I feel so proud with how far this movement has come in such a short time, and am grateful the Board modified their original plans after taking our proposal into consideration. However, I believe there is still much that can be done. We will continue to fight for our vision until we sit down with all members of the board agreeing upon a compromise. It emboldens me to see the change we have influenced within our community, and I’m excited to continue pushing forward on this movement with my peers!” The persistent students of LMSD were integral in sparking the changed role of the Oakwell property.

These ideas and plans regarding Oakwell are very new. The logistics and legal aspects are still under discussion, so noth- ing is final, and information is subjected to change. A particular issue that is still being debated is parking and where buses will drop off students at Oakwell for sports practice. Such decisions still need to be considered, but more information is expected to be discussed and revealed to LMSD community members at upcoming School Board meetings.

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  • Colin QuinnFeb 16, 2023 at 12:16 AM

    LMSD continues to ignore the growth in baseball and softball in the community. There are currently not enough fields, so we bus students to different locations every day (including going out of District for Polo Field for BRMS now). Contrary to what the article states, this does not work well. It results in added carbon emissions and wasted practice time. It’s also a hassle for the maintenance crews to have to travel to different sites to prepare them for games and provide maintenance. Please give our booming softball/baseball populations a place to go that isn’t out of district or off site.

  • AnonymousFeb 14, 2023 at 12:37 PM

    What are the plans for the entire site?
    What are the plans for the Tea House, Acorn Cottage, and the Stable?
    Does LMSD plan to build any fields on Oakwell?

  • Shawn McMurtryFeb 14, 2023 at 8:35 AM

    Positively impressed by these intrepid students protecting their future! Persistence is paying off!