New middle school in Upper Darby raises concerns

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (WPVI) -- Upper Darby School District is looking to build a new middle school in Clifton Heights, however, residents are concerned about losing green space and higher taxes.

They are critical of a plan by the Upper Darby School District to build a new middle school in the borough.

The school district wants to build on 14 acres of open space it owns but now leases to Clifton Heights.

The acreage has been used by borough residents for generations. It's used for youth sports, community fundraisers, carnivals and July 4th festivities.

Clifton Heights has a small footprint, less than a square mile.

Mayor Joe Lombardo said, "It is the last open green space we have and we don't want to see it go."

The mayor worries the middle school could end community use of the playing fields.

The School District says that is not its intention. That it's proposed school will include space for several baseball and soccer fields as well as a football field.

It says it wants to assure Clifton Heights' residents that community groups can access the new fields when classes are not in session.

The district's acting Superintendent Daniel McGarry said, "We don't have any issues with working that out with that community with keeping that history alive."

Mayor Lambardo is concerned about how that will work. He said, "Are they going to control the use of it? Is the middle school going to control the use of it or are they going to lease the space to the borough as they do now? And let borough control the use of it?"

The district says the 60 million dollar school is part of a larger plan to handle more kids and modernize existing schools.

Lombardo is also concerned school taxes, that now average $4500 a year per residence, could go up as the school plan is implemented.

He predicted the school taxes could be raised by as much as one third. Which he believes could force some homeowners to leave the borough of about 6700 people.

The acting superintendent said he didn't know how the mayor came up with the 33 percent number. He said, "Our goal is to mitigate tax increase, improve facilities which hopefully increases home values."

He said increasing home values and better schools should encourage people to live in the Upper Darby School District.
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