Kennett High School front steps will be refurbished04/18/2021 05:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Kennett High School’s revered and architecturally acclaimed front steps are getting a facelift.
Kennett Consolidated School District facilities director George Wolhafe announced at the virtual April 12 board meeting that work is scheduled to begin on April 26 with the installation of protective barriers.
He explained in an earlier interview that the steps are being preserved and are structurally sound, but they are showing signs of aging.
During the construction period, Wolhafe said, there would be staggered openings on sections of the stairs. With it all, they will look exactly the same following the completion of the project.
The stairs have long been a source of pride to the school and community.
Graduates often mention how grateful they are to have processed down the steps as they enter commencement ceremonies. Others in the community recall hearing friends from afar saying how beautiful the school looks, especially as they drive south on Broad Street and see it for the first time.
In the early 1970s, the school board offered a plan to expand the auditorium in a construction project and eliminate the steps. Heavy and emotional criticism from residents and graduates alike erupted, and that project was abandoned.
Former Kennett News and Advertiser editor and “Kennett Square Yesterday and Today” author Richard W. Taylor wrote, “In the early 1970s a renovation was proposed by the school board. Maintenance had been postponed and repairs were necessary. Plans for the expansion were presented at a public hearing, and the architect’s design to remove the front steps and install a larger auditorium drew howls of protest from the audience …The plans were revised, and work began in 1978.”
The school and its stately architecture dating back to 1931 still receive admiring comments from visitors.
On closer inspection, however, the signs of wear that Wolhafe referred to are visible.
Karen Halstead, a proud 1960 graduate of Kennett High School who is aware of the uproar that surrounded the proposed project to remove the front steps, stopped at the school recently to see the current conditions. She said this: “After checking out the historic steps, I saw the true need for those renovations. Sad to see them crumbling in many places. Bravo for the insight and dedication to those repairs. Never too late, but close!”
In other board reports, district assistant superintendent Dr. Michael Barber said he and the staff are happy to see the in-school reopening that occurred on April 5.
“It was exciting to see our kids and parents on campus,” he said.
Student Council representative Mikayla Klenk echoed his enthusiasm as she listed a host of on-campus activities that are planned for the students. They include, among many others, a mini-Thon, a prom, a senior dinner, Spirit Week, a musical, Senior Stroll and the total return of spring sports.
She reported that the teams are experiencing success, including the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams, that are turning in victories.
Klenk added that there is some frustration among students that they must eat lunch with barriers that cut down on conversations, but otherwise there is joy among the students to be back.
School board treasurer Michael Finnegan reported that the finance committee has been able to pare down the preliminary budget from $90.4 million to $ 90.2 million, thus reducing the tax increase from 2.3 percent to 1.85 percent.
Board member Dr. Vicki Gehrt, who represents Kennett on the Chester County Intermediate Unit, said she is pleased that they are now offering courses for adults, including HVAC, welding and commercial driver’s license courses.
Board President Joe Meola reported the resignation of school board member Maribel Garcia. He said that applications to replace her will be received until April 28, with a vote by the board on naming a replacement that will take place on May 10.
He also said he was happy to announce that the board will resume meeting onsite at Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in May.