2021 is drawing to a close, so before looking ahead its time to review what happened over the past year around Garden City. Next week I hope to look ahead at 2022.
The big story, as everywhere, was Covid. At the start of 2021, students were either attending school in hybrid or in the online academy. The school transitioned to full in person over the spring as the township and school boards returned to in person meetings. The winter saw a halting start to the vaccination campaign as supplies were low. Regular testing programs were getting underway in the schools. By spring, however, the county had spun up its vaccination clinics and many thousands were vaccinated through its clinics. Vaccinations were expanded to high school age students by the end of spring. By early summer, Covid and the vaccination campaign were starting to wane. Thanks to vaccinations and falling case counts, more of the 2021 senior class events proceeded than the previous year. Summer saw a brief respite as the township held dedications for Furness and Martha Burton Park, held the township summer camp outdoors at NPE while Family Fun Day and the Halloween Decorating Contest returned in early October. The school district offered a summer explorers program to augment learning for elementary school age children as well.
Delta arrived over the summer and the school debates over masks returned in August. After long, fraught meetings, the district ultimately put in place parameters for a masking mandate before the governor superseded it with his own masking order. Most students opted to return in person and little has been heard since about the school district’s contract with Edmentum to provide an online learning alternative. During the fall the district’s test to stay program has allowed many students to continue in person education. Vaccinations finally opened up to most school age children in November. As Omicron arrived this month, a push is underway for booster shots for further protection against new variants.
There were a number of significant transitions in 2021. The school board appointed Dr. Marseille as its new superintendent in the summer. Ahead of the change, the school board passed a raft of new policy changes. The board itself saw significant change as Michele Downie, Jerry Ballas, Marylin Huff and Chapin Cimino all departed. In the township, Dave Grady completed his first year following long-time township manager Gary Cummings retirement in 2020. The Swarthmorean saw upheaval as its editors resigned over disagreements over the papers direction.
After he arrived over the summer, the superintendent conducted a series of listening sessions. The board and superintendent approved equity and curriculum audits, though little has happened thus far as a result. The school district also restarted its committee meetings in a more accessible format than previously. The school board announced it will meet only once a month going forward instead of its previous twice a month meetings. The township meanwhile has begun preparations for a new comprehensive plan for the township.
The township continues to see steady change. The first units of the development at 310 Wallingford were completed in the Spring. The township finally acquired a floodplain house by Mickey Vernon Park as well as adjacent land nearby and demolished the house to lay the groundwork for new park lands. The township completed projects at Sapovitts Park, Gouley Park and Garden City Manor, but the expected projects on E Possum Hollow Rd. and E Rose Valley Rd. were pushed into 2022.
The township passed a zero waste resolution in response to the expected renewal of the Covanta incinerator contract in the spring and followed the county’s lead to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the fall. The township also responded to vandalism at Sapovitts and Hepford Parks by installing cameras. Although the board intended to return to the camera policy, they have yet to do so. The board also extensively discussed traffic issues related to Springhaven Club. The Nether Providence Township Police Department capped off years of work with formal accreditation. The township has been allocated American Recovery Act funds, but has largely held off on using them as they figure out what projects are eligible. The one major item that it has been spent on is a rental for a replacement ladder truck for the Garden City Fire Company, after their truck was hit and has been out for repairs for many months.
Despite the changes, many activities in the township continued. The CRC held its annual stream cleanup in the spring while Citizens Against Trash continues to pick up waste throughout the township. The South Media Fire Company has held an entire year of Food Truck Fridays while the Garden City fire company held a fall festival. The township held its two tree plantings, adding trees at Hepford, Martha Burton and Sapovitts Parks and held multiple Red Cross blood drives at the township building.
Although township and school district budgets remain largely unchanged, taxes continue to rise. It appears the township’s rise will be lower than the school district’s (the county passed a budget without an increase). When the school district passed its budget it noted ongoing structural deficits. Here in Garden City the tax increases were compounded by the rise due to the county-wide re-assessment, leading to large increases in some cases. Municipal elections were held this year, and voters in Nether Providence chose to largely keep things as they are. The school district approved three school calendars in 2021, the 2021-22 calendar in February and the 22-23 and 23-24 calendars this month. The school district is also revisiting the sleep/start time study after it got derailed by the pandemic in 2020. The Panels for Panthers program contributed funds to the district to have solar panels installed on a school building. Just before Thanksgiving there was a racial incident, this time at WES.
A number of changes at the county this year will affect Nether Providence. The county will establish its new health department in 2022 and has already made key hires. Delcora is working on a plan that will divert wastewater from Philadelphia to processing locations in Delaware County. The county has also voted to return the state’s only private prison to public control next year as well. The county is also developing its solid waste plan next year. Litigation continues on the sale of both Delcora and the Chester Water Authority to Aqua. This month new legislative maps were released as a result of the census, but won’t be finalized until 2022.