Task Force: New Schools Are Needed - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Task Force: New Schools Are Needed

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MILTON, Del. - To the tune of $47 million, some new schools could be on their way in the Cape Henlopen School District. A task force made their recommendations at the latest school board meeting, and their plan involved renovations or the re-building of five Cape Elementary schools.

According to Brian Bassett, Director of Administrative Services phase one of the proposed plan would focus on a few elementary schools first.

H.O. Brittingham Elementary School would be torn down and replaced by a new 720-student school. Similarly Rehoboth Elementary School would be replaced by a brand new 720-student school. Lastly, the Task Force recommended that the district purchases land in the Lewes area for a brand-new countywide Consortium.

All in all, the first phase would cost approximately $47 million, of which $18.8 million would be paid for locally. The state would provide the rest of the funding for the project, if accepted.

The second phase of the project would include two other elementary schools. First the district hopes to renovate and expand the Milton Elementary School, maintaining the outside facade, while changing the interior greatly. This project could begin as soon as 2019, if approved.

Then the district is interested in renovating and expanding the Lewes School Building, as the new home for the Shields Elementary School. Bassett said this second phase could begin as soon as 2021.

Bassett said there are two fundamental reasons for wanting to get new schools constructed: Aging buildings and enrollment.

Current enrollment at the Cape Henlopen School District is 5,154 according to Bassett. Over the last ten years, Bassett said that the enrollment has skyrocketed by 783 students. By 2020, he said it's expected to increase by another 500 students, which he said is making the schools overcrowded.

Meanwhile, Bassett said the buildings are in great need for improvements due to aging. He said the average age of all Cape Henlopen elementary schools is 63-years old.

"We must prepare now for the enrollment projections," said Bassett. "And for the age and condition of our existing schools."

The school board will have to approve the plan first. However there are some significant concerns from some school board members, who argue there is a more fiscally responsible alternative.

School board members Jennifer Burton and Spencer Brittingham told WBOC that they thought the two Milton schools should be combined into one school instead to cut down on costs.

Brittingham said that this would also get rid of what he referred to as a "disparity" between the two Milton Schools, despite their close proximity.

Bassett said that many task force members did tour Kathleen H. Wilbur Elementary School in Bear -- a school that services approximately 1,100 students. He said this would be a similar situation to what a Milton joint-school would look like. However Bassett said some task force members had concerns with large schools -- fearing it would possibly hurt the "small-school atmosphere."

If the school-board does approve the plan, the district will need to get a certificate of necessity from the state. The deadline for this application is in August of this year. If the state signs off on this plan, then the district could hold a referendum, which Bassett said could be held as early as next Spring. If the referendum is successful, Bassett said construction could begin as early as July, 2017.

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