Lower Merion School District is negotiating to buy a closed Catholic church property next to Welsh Valley Middle School, expecting to need more classrooms in the near future as enrollment grows.
The Board of School Directors voted at Monday night's meeting to authorize Superintendent Chris McGinley to execute a deal for the St. Justin Martyr Church building at 1200 Hagys Ford Road in Penn Valley.
Though St. Justin Martyr's 7.2-acre property has been tax-exempt as a religious institution since the church was built in 1968, it has occasionally been assessed for taxable value. The most recent assessment, in 1997, put the value at $2,062,750, according to county property records.
School district solicitor Kenneth Roos said officials hope to close the deal this week, at which point the sale price would be announced.
The timeline for prospective school building construction, and the immediate future of the church building, was not discussed at Monday's meeting.
Board president Diane DiBonaventuro expressed enthusiasm about the deal's potential.
"This is a rare opportunity, a parcel this size adjacent to one of our schools," DiBonaventuro said. "Given our increasing enrollment, it was really fortuitous that this came up."
Welsh Valley enrolled 863 students in grades six through eight in the 2011-12 school year, district records show. A recent study commissioned by the district projected an enrollment of 1,077 in 2021-22, which would still be a decrease from a projected 10-year peak of 1,148 students in 2017-18.