Ridley Township Junior-Senior High School
1001 Morton Avenue, Folsom, PA –1934-1966
Before 1800 the children of what is now Ridley Township were educated at home or were sent by their well-to-do parents to schools in Chester or Philadelphia. In February of 1800, a number of farmers met at Jacob Painter’s Drove Tavern located on Chester Pike in Ridley Park to discuss the erection of a schoolhouse. Soon after, Caleb Davis, a member of this committee, donated some property on the Post Road (Chester Pike at Myrtle Avenue) “for the purpose of a schoolhouse intended to be erected.” By October the school was built at a cost of $386 donated by the farmers, and the subscribers had selected Jacob Fenton of Dartmouth College as its first School Teacher. He was to “teach a regular day school in the rudiments of English language, reading, writing, arithmetic, bookkeeping, and geography.” Fenton’s pay was $2 per student over a three-month period. In 1872, Margaret Stow acquired the property, now 313 Chester Pike, Ridley Park, and it is now a private residence.
On June 3, 1801, Lewis Morey sold property for $50 to William Boon and Aaron Morton, trustees, “to build a schoolhouse theron” on the southeast corner of 13th and Lincoln Avenues (now Prospect Park). This school remained in operation until 1877, when Norwood School was built. The school was sold in August 1878 to William J. Tranor; the bricks from this school were used to build Prospect Park Methodist church. In 1819, Thomas Leiper built a school next to the Leiper Church on Fairview Road. Known as the Thomas Leiper Church School, it was probably used for children of his quarry workers. In 1834, when the Pennsylvania Public School Act was passed, these three schools formed the Ridley Township School District.
On July 30, 1849, the newly formed school district purchased property located across the street from the Thomas Leiper Church School (now 901 Fairview Road) from John Noble, farmer. More property was added in 1865 from David Harper. Here the district subsequently built a structure described by early historian Mildred E. Draper as the traditional “little red brick schoolhouse.” (now Rockies Deli at 301 Fairview Road). This school was sold to John Holland in May 1871, when the Leiperville School was built on property (now 1124 Chester Pike) purchased on September 24, 1870 from the Philadelphia Press Brick Company for $550.90.
In September of 1875, property was purchased from Thomas Tasker, a wealthy landowner and local preacher, to establish the Kedron School on Amosland Road, named after a brook in Jerusalem. Torn down and rebuilt in 1900 and enlarged in 1909 and in 1919, the school was sold in 1980 and is now the Calvary Baptist Church.
The Simpson School (4th and Saville Avenues), built by the district in 1877, was turned over to the newly incorporated Borough of Eddystone in 1888. Similarly, the Norwood School (6652 Chester Pike), built in 1878, was turned over to the Borough of Norwood in 1893; Tome Street School (Penn and Tome Streets), built in 1885, was turned over to Ridley Park in 1887; and the Prospect Park School (8th and Lincoln Avenues), built in 1888, was given to the Borough of Prospect Park in 1894.
In 1880, the school district purchased more property and the Fairview Road School site from John Grace for $200. The old school, rebuilt “to look like Kedron School,” was renamed to Leiper’s School and was used until 1912, when the Woodlyn Elementary School was opened.
In 1890 the Folsom School was built at 6th and Swarthmore Avenues. In operation for many years, it is now the Folsom Senior Citizen Center.
Before 1927, students of the Ridley Township School District who wished to pursue a high school education went to Chester High School, opened in 1905, or to Ridley Park High School, opened in 1918. In 1927, under the auspices of various civic groups and individuals who had long felt that it would be a great saving to the township if the tuition fees which were paid to other districts could be invested in its own school plan, the Board of School Directors acquired 14.5 acres of ground along Swarthmore Avenue. It was not until 1934 that sufficient federal and state aid was secured from the Public Works Administration and the Local Works Administration to authorize the clearing of the site and to begin the actual construction. According to a “History of the School” printed in the first yearbook (June 1935), “Many well-meaning people did not believe the school possible or necessary but when the proposition was submitted to the voters of the township the project was authorized, and on August 4, 1934, Mr. William Clymer, the president of the Board of Education, officially laid the cornerstone.”
On October 1, 1934, the school, built of beautiful pink granite quarried in Arizona, officially opened, but since there had been “unavoidable delays,” all equipment was not in the building, so the first meeting of students and faculty took place on the stone platform at the south end of the school. Split sessions were held from then on, the junior high classes meeting in the morning and the senior high groups in the afternoon, for three weeks. About 600 students had been registered for the opening day, but when 817 actually appeared, including some pupils from nearby districts, radical changes had to be made in the prearranged schedule of classes.
On October 24, the Patriotic Sons of America presented the flagpole with due ceremony. Judge Albert Dutton MacDade was the guest speaker, and on this occasion our school band made its first official appearance. Dedication exercises were held in the auditorium on December 21, 1934, when officials from the state, county, and township formally received the building and turned it over to a representative group of faculty and students for their use “in the educational building of the community.” This flagpole remained in use until 1995 when it was replaced with funding from the general school budget because it was deemed unsafe.
The 1934 history concludes with the statement that many community groups have had use of the building, including the Mothers’ Club, the Parent-Teacher’s Association, the Father’s Association, and the Independent Athletic Clubs.
During the late ‘30s and early ‘40s the district continued to grow in size. The following elementary schools were built as a result of housing development and population growth: Leedom School in 1945 (additions in 1951, ’56, ’66); Amosland School in 1950; Grace Park School in 1955 (additions 1957, ’58, ’61); and Edgewood School in 1957 (addition in 1966). By 1955, steadily increasing enrollment necessitated the opening of the Ridley Township Junior High School.
According to the 1959 yearbook, additions were currently underway to add 11 classrooms, two science laboratories, a library, an auto shop, a two-room art suite, a girls’ gym, new locker and shower facilities, a medical and dental suite, and an audio-visual center. Drawings also document the addition of the “Ridley Township High School Auditorium” at this time.
Due to a state mandate requiring the consolidation of smaller districts into larger ones, the last graduating class of the Ridley Township High School was the Class of 1966. “The Green Mystique,” however, remained alive and well.