Cape Henlopen School District Makes Pitch for March Referendum - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Cape Henlopen School District Makes Pitch for March Referendum

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Buses lined up outside H.O. Brittingham, which would be demolished under district plan (Photo: WBOC) Buses lined up outside H.O. Brittingham, which would be demolished under district plan (Photo: WBOC)

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Administrators from the Cape Henlopen School District made their case for brand new elementary schools during a community meeting held Wednesday night at Rehoboth Elementary School. To the tune of $130 million of state and local funding, the district is looking to replace the H.O. Brittingham and Rehoboth Elementary Schools with brand new buildings, and is looking to renovate the Lewes School and the Milton Elementary School. 

The meeting was the first of five community meetings over the next month, leading up to the referendum vote on March 23. Superintendent of Schools Bob Fulton said the event was a way for the district to explain the need for new schools to taxpayers. 

"Our message is a simple one," he said. "Which is that we're growing. And we want to stay ahead of the growing." 

The state will pay 60 percent of the $130 million project. But the remaining $48 million will be paid for through local taxes. Fulton said that in the fourth year of taxation, the average homeowner would pay $74 per year. 

Fulton said the new schools were needed, due to skyrocketing enrollment. 

"Over the last five years," he said. "We've averaged 100 new students a year. And the projections are for 1,000 students more in 10 years." 

Some taxpayers, like Karen Bova of Lewes, told WBOC that the price tag was too high to support. 

"I'm all for the kids," said Bova. "And helping out for a good thing. But stop reaching in our pockets all the time. That seems to be what it is. (The district) seems to want to take out more than we're bringing in." 

Others like Patricia Quinn, of Lewes, said that investment is needed, to address the growing population of the area as a whole. 

"Our children are our future," she said. "And we should have an appropriate infrastructure and environment for our children to be in school." 

Beyond the four new elementary schools, the state has also agreed to pay 100 percent of a new Sussex Consortium, which will be located on Sweetbriar Road. This specialty school offers services for approximately 275 Sussex County students, enrolled in autism programs. This project will continue, regardless of the referendum results. 

If approved, the school district said that construction will begin this year, going one school at a time, starting with H.O. Brittingham. If all goes according to plan, the district hopes to have construction completed by 2021. 

There are four other meetings being held before the referendum, which are listed below. 

- March 2 - H.O. Brittingham Elementary, 6:30 p.m. 

- March 8 - Lewes School, 6:30 p.m. 

- March 14 - Milton Elementary School, 6:30 p.m. 

- March 21 - Cape Henlopen High School, 6:30 p.m. 

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