Feuds: The Drama Club

If it’s not cell-phone towers in Gladwyne, it’s Ardmore’s makeover. There’s always something roiling the vodka tonics in Lower Merion. Right now, soccer moms are hot under their Tory Burch tunics over which (top-rated) high school their kids will attend

Over the past year, four different plans have been presented, to various degrees of hue and cry. While the details of the plans are nearly incomprehensible unless you stand over a map with a magnifying glass and a cartographer, it all boils down to this: Plan 1 was to send part of Ardmore, Penn Valley, and Penn Wynne (a Wynnewood neighborhood) to Harriton. Parents objected, loudly, so revisions were made, resulting in Plan 2, which sent part of Merion, part of Penn Wynne and all of Narberth to Harriton. This seemed workable, because the Narberth kids, who currently attend two different elementary schools, would all be together for high school, as would most Merion kids. But the Penn Wynners and Merionites cried foul again.
Plan 3 shrank the historic walking zone around Lower Merion High School — most Ardmore kids have always had the choice to walk there — but when that also got shot down by parents, Plan 3R (3, revised) was the last proposal. 3R gave Bala, Penn Wynne and Merion their choice of high schools, and kept a larger walking zone around LMHS in place. But much of South Ardmore and much of Narberth were now sent to Harriton, full stop, no choice. And with this, the board dug in its heels — there would be no more revisions.
The last school board meeting was filled with Narberth and Ardmore residents who were allotted one minute each to speak to the board. Speeches got heated, including one by South Ardmore parent Aaron Williams, who stormed out of the meeting. “We are a working-class neighborhood, and I feel the board looks at us as we’re the path of least resistance,” Williams complained, and his speech was actually edited out of video of the school board meeting posted on the L.M. district website — but was restored when this editing raised still more protest.
“It seems like the school board listened to Merion and Penn Wynne screaming,” says another Penn Valley mom (Penn Valley Mom #2, we’ll call her), who says that people in her neighborhood “hate each other” over the plans, and are intensely jealous of the families that can still walk to Lower Merion High School. “The people who got the choice to walk seem to be wealthier,” she says. Indeed, it must be particularly galling for Ardmore families who live close to LMHS to find out they must now take a bus to Harriton. Some parents even raised the question of race, since South Ardmore is known as the most racially diverse area of the Main Line. Doubtless racism wasn’t the motive of the school board, but since Narberth and Ardmore are the least pricey real estate in L.M., it does, at the least, seem like only the less wealthy in the township got the redistricting deal that they most definitely and vociferously didn’t want. “It was not racist,” insists a school board source. “It displaced white kids, too.”