Addie Geitner ’21
Every ten years, Mercersburg Academy updates its Campus Master Plan (CMP) to ensure that the school’s facilities are equipped to support the ever-evolving needs of the student body in an ever-evolving academic world. This year, students and faculty have placed an emphasis on the role sustainability must play in the planning process given the urgency of the climate crisis, the availability of cost-effective technology, and the increasingly significant presence of environmentalism at educational institutions worldwide.
The school is working with The Blanchard Group, a consulting firm that aims to help “leading independent educational institutions link strategic needs with the possibilities of their place.” The Blanchard Group came to Mercersburg familiar with many of its peer schools.
Planning began with Phase One, during which school leadership strategically selected members for three working groups that will help inform The Blanchard Group of the school’s needs and wants. As emphasized by Dan Izer, Project Manager at Mercersburg, this phase accomplished two goals: it familiarized The Blanchard Group with the school’s history and determined where the school wishes to go in the future. “Blanchard has never attended a class at Mercersburg, served as faculty/staff and is not a board member,” Izer said. “Once Blanchard understands who we are, then they can begin to suggest and provide guidance on current and future trends, market conditions, and other important pieces of long term planning.
Mercersburg is currently in the second phase, that of “creating context.” As the work groups conclude Phase Two, Izer emphasizes the fact that while specific initiatives have not yet been discussed (such discussion will begin to take place in phase three), environmental concerns are very much on the minds of the stakeholders. “I can say with great confidence that Mercersburg wants to and needs to pursue [environmental initiatives] further,” Izer said. “In some cases, we need to market the good things we have already done.”
Head of School Katie Titus said, “At a very high level I believe that schools like Mercersburg should always be thinking about what our public purpose is,” emphasizing the point that as a school of privilege we should find genuine ways to involve ourselves with the local community. To this end, Director of Environmental Initiatives Will Willis is excited by the possibilities that come from wide-reaching sustainable infrastructure, such as a solar array that could connect to the local grid. The school is monitoring the possibility of energy alternatives.
Mercersburg’s present Campus Master Plan was completed in 2011. Despite student and faculty pressure for the inclusion of an “environmental master plan,” substantial environmental initiatives were all but omitted from that effort. This has resulted in an extra push from the students and faculty for widespread environmental action that can serve the school for the next ten years.
History department member Erin Caretti offers the advice of an astute Greek proverb: “‘A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.’ We need to plant those trees now.”