Around 30 borough residents gathered at a recent meeting to discuss potential uses for the Hopkins parcel, in preparation for the school district’s 2023 bond referendum, and in light of the recent success of the decade-long land swap.
Earlier this year, there were 15 visioning sessions with staff, students and residents and a survey went out in the summer about what respondents want to prioritize. Ron Schwenke, a representative from LAN Associates architectural firm in Voorhees, emphasized the value of the parcel.
“It’s one of those unique opportunities where we’re truly looking for your ideas and your voice about what we can accomplish in this district,” Schwenke said. “I haven’t seen this kind of opportunity for Haddonfield – the one thing you cannot find is blank slate land.”
The parcel is a stretch of land that runs from Kings Highway toward Hopkins Lane and contains three historic properties: the potting shed; the carriage house; and the Maggie House, with a greenhouse attached. The properties must continue to exist on the parcel, but can be moved or relocated.
Not included in the swap is the acre of land surrounding Lullworth Hall, a structure adjacent to the high school that is being used partly as a student parking lot.
Superintendent Chuck Klaus for an early-childhood education center in the space – including a parking lot and a playground – to help achieve full-day kindergarten in the district and open more rooms in the elementary schools.
“Two-and- a-half hours is fine, we get by on it, but that’s not what our students deserve,” Klaus said of the current kindergarten program.
Klaus noted that during COVID, the district switched to four-hour days for kindergarten and saw an increase in test scores for its students.
“Early intervention, working with those students, changes things in the long run,” he said. “If a child can’t decode reading by the end of second grade, their life is dramatically different than if they can.”
The superintendent said it was more economically beneficial to have an early-childhood education center in the space than a new middle school because of the different amenities required.
Meeting participants were provided a transparent map of the area to illustrate their ideas, as well as shapes of potential structures suggested by previous visioning sessions and the summer survey. Ideas included creating an early-childhood education center, adding an athletic field, a new performance center, or pool and more parking.
During the meeting’s discussion period, many residents were in favor of the suggestions already outlined. High school environmental science teacher Ron Smith suggested using the carriage house for an environmental science program, and using the green house and the surrounding outdoor space to teach outdoors along, with an outdoor amphitheater and athletic fields.
Other suggestions included converting other district-owned fields, like the one behind Tatem Elementary, into turf fields, so practices could be held there and allow more room in the Hopkins parcel. Another concern raised was how traffic would be impacted by any new building on the parcel, with one resident asking if it would be possible to widen Hopkins Lane.
There will be another community visioning session Thursday focused on what people would like to see improved within existing buildings. To learn more about the planning, visit https://haddonfieldschools.org/lrfp/.