GEORGETOWN, Del. - An Indian River School District committee has spent the last few months investigating solutions to the immense growth the district has faced over the last decade. District leaders told WBOC that more space is needed in order to accommodate a skyrocketing enrollment.
"They need more space," said Superintendent of Schools Susan Bunting.
Starting in the fall, the Futures Committee was reconvened with the goal of finding "short and long-term resolutions to the enrollment increase and space shortage." The committee is made up of community members, and school officials.
On Feb. 29, the committee is expected to present its findings to the school board, which will vote on their general direction. Bunting said that a referendum, in order to construct more buildings, would likely be included in the plan, although a referendum would likely not be scheduled until 2017.
"You can only add so many wings," she said. "Or so many additional classrooms to a school and make it totally efficient... So we're looking at additional buildings at this point. And that would have to be funded by our public through the referendum process."
According to statistics provided by the district, enrollment has been rising steadily, and is expected to jump to nearly 12,000 students by 2020. The data, provided by Indian River can be seen below:
2005: 7,885 students
2010: 8,786 students
2015: 10,171 students
2020 (projected): 11,953.
Bunting said that the most immediate needs are for two elementary schools, a middle school, and possibly even a high school. At this point, there are no official plans proposed.
Father and grandfather Terry Megee is on the committee. He said that some have proposed a ninth-grade academy, rather than a high school, in order to cut down on the costs of these projects. Regardless of what direction is taken, Megee said something must be done.
"Cut classrooms are not the best environment," he said. "When you cut a classroom in half and make two classrooms out of one. That's not the best environment for learning. And they've had to do this now to handle the crunch at this immediate moment."
Short-term fixes are being done across the district. At the Georgetown Elementary School, construction is already underway to build four more classrooms to deal with the growth.
Bunting said that the great majority of the growth is happening in the northern end of the district, in the areas of Georgetown, Millsboro, and Long Neck. This may be a source for contention, since those in the southern end of the district would be less likely to see the benefits at their schools.
"There's been growth everywhere..." said Bunting. "We must show this is for everyone."