The Circle School Blog

An occasional thing

The Circle School Blog

Sure, at times we didn’t think it could possibly exist. 5+ acres with woods, stream, and open areas? That we could afford? Here is the story of how we managed to find, with a lot of work and a little luck, exactly what we were looking for.

  • The school has long hoped for more outdoor adventure space, and a large room for potluck gatherings and big school-day activities. Some serious searching began around 2006, soon after the Living Water Community Church bought the woods and hillside next door.
  • Then the church announced plans (late 2012) to terminate the school’s lease of part of the backyard, cut down the trees, and haul the hillside away in dump trucks, to make space for another church building. The school’s search for a new campus intensified!
  • In early 2013 School Meeting appointed a new Property Search Committee and the search was ON!
  • In a March newsletter (2013) we noted the upcoming loss of outdoor space, including the sandbox, some great climbing trees, and a wooded view out the back door.
  • "The Football"

    “The Football”

    • An April newsletter (2013) gave more details about our process, along with the campus search criteria established years earlier:
    • located within about two miles of 210 Oakleigh Ave (to preserve busing from all school districts)
    • at least five acres of land
    • a code-ready building of at least 7,000 square feetor no buildings on-site
  • In May, a 3rd Tuesday Forum event was devoted to discussion of campus relocation and the many questions and ideas raised in the school community.
  • In Pennsylvania, school districts provide busing to non-public schools located within 10 miles of the school district. The school’s current “Oakleigh” campus is ideally situated, with bus service from 12 school districts. Not wanting to lose service for any students, the target relocation area was carefully drawn (2006) as the small overlap of the 12 districts’ bus service areas—an area that came to be known as “The Football” because of its shape.
  • The Football (later refined to be even more precise) is where the Property Search Committee focused its efforts. They used Google Maps to track candidate locations. Using the map’s tools, we could also specifically calculate to verify that a candidate location was inside the 10-mile limit.
GIS map showing property lines

GIS map showing property lines

  • The committee also scrutinized Google Earth’s satellite imagery to get a birdseye view.  We utilized Dauphin County’s online Geographic Information System which shows satellite views of the area with property lines superimposed. It also provides contact information for land owners, so if we saw a property that looked promising, we called them up
  • We looked at many properties. Many many properties. A summer newsletter (2013) kept families updated.
  • Then one day the Property Search Committee “flew” over the area in Google Earth and discovered a large wooded space. Access to that site from Union Deposit Road would have been too expensive, requiring a new traffic light and turning lane. But access from the south might be feasible across an empty meadow there.
  • In August 2013, the Committee approached the George M. Leader Family Corporation, asking if they might allow us to build a driveway across their land. Instead they offered to donate the land to the school—4.6 acres of meadow and woods—if we could raise the funds to build! The meadow, thus exalted, became the Meadow.
  • But School Meeting wanted a stream, too, and township law requires a school to have more than 4.6 acres. Happily there’s a nice stream (and more woods) on the 2.8 acre property to the meadow’s east—the Ravine. And happily the steep and landlocked Ravine is practically worthless on the market, so the owner agreed to sell for a song.
The former paper road is shown in pink

The former paper road is shown in pink

  • But there was a problem. The Meadow and the Ravine were separated by a public right-of-way, a “paper street” that was planned a half-century ago, but never built. The school petitioned the township commissioners to erase the paper street—“vacate the right-of-way”—and they did, in September 2014, splitting it down the middle and giving half each to the Meadow and the Ravine.
  • Thus the street-that-wasn’t-built paved the way for The Circle School’s Meadow Campus: 7.75 acres of meadow, woods, ravine, and stream.