Goddard School gets preliminary approval in Upper St. Clair

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Parents in Upper St. Clair are one step closer to having more choice in early childhood care and education with the preliminary approval Monday of a new Goddard School.

Township commissioners approved an application by a 5-1 vote from owner Dave Santo for a new school and child-care center on Painters Run Road, but not without some safety requirements that commissioners wanted. 

Commissioner Mark Christie was absent and Commissioner Daniel Paoly dissented after a heated and lengthy discussion about whether the school should have a fence to protect children from falling into Painters Run Creek, which runs behind the property.

“I think it’s something that should be done and it’s better than a hedge,” said Commissioner Russell Del Re about using a fence rather than a plan presented by Mr. Santo, which included a guide rail and hedges along the creek edge. The creek drops off by about 4 feet from the end of the property. “The concern here is safety.”

But, Mr. Santo disagreed.

“There’s natural vegetation now that would keep kids from getting into the creek,” said Mr. Santo, who said reeds and other vegetation provide a dense barrier to the water. “Have you seen that creek in the summer? I can’t get to the creek.”

“I don’t see it being a major stumbling point,” said Mr. Del Re, who estimated that a 4-foot cyclone fence along the creek bed should cost about $10,000 or less. Mr. Del Re works as a general superintendent for contractor P.J. Dick.

“It’s just adding cost to the project,” Mr. Santo said. “We’ll just have to raise tuition costs. The people of this township will pay for it.”

Mr. Paoly said that while a guide rail and landscaping may seem sufficient, children often do unexpected things.

“I have three kids. They get away from you — things happen,” Mr. Paoly said.

“If it protects one child, it’s worth the cost,” agreed Commissioner Glenn Dandoy, who first broached the issue of a creek fence with the developer last month, during the first part of a public hearing that was wrapped up Monday.

Commissioners debated whether to make fencing a requirement for the preliminary approval being sought by Mr. Santo, but elected instead to leave more options open for the developer, who must come up with a solution to create a barrier between the property and the creek before he seeks final approval later this year.

In the meantime, plans can move forward for the 11,000-square-foot school at 631 Painters Run Road.

Mr. Santo and his wife Lori purchased two homes and the former Pasquerelli’s Restaurant, which closed several years ago, and plan to demolish all of the buildings to construct the new school.

Ms. Santo said the King of Prussia-based franchise had been in business for 26 years, with 405 schools in 41 states. She said there are about 38 Goddard schools in Eastern Pennsylvania but only five in the Pittsburgh area.

The schools operate under the Piaget philosophy of cognitive development, Ms. Santo said, named for Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget.

The local school would be certified by the state Department of Education, the Santos said, and would include outdoor playgrounds that would be individually fenced in, and an indoor recreational area. The residential-type design of the building would be similar to the Goddard School on East McMurray Road in Peters, the couple said.

The school, if approved, would have 10 classrooms and employ between 20 and 30 teachers, Ms. Santo said.

Classes would include foreign languages, dance, yoga, world cultures and sign language, she said, and hours of operation would be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Concerns about flooding in the neighborhood should be alleviated by a stormwater control plan that includes less paving and more green space, along with rain gardens to absorb runoff. The building will be situated 1.8 feet above the 100-year floodplain.

On Monday, commissioners also:

• Set April 7 as the public hearing date for a request from 1800 Washington Road Associates to rezone 26 acres at the former Consol headquarters for a special business-mixed use district. Developers plan to move forward with the Siena at St. Clair development, which, if approved, would include a new Whole Foods grocer and other shops.

• Recognized the Upper St. Clair High School soccer and golf teams, each of which won state championships this year. Golfer Grant Engel was recognized for winning the individual championship title and for raising $8,400 for colo-rectal cancer research during the golf season.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.

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