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Cape adds teachers to reduce class sizes

Parents say Love Creek Elementary already overcrowded
September 22, 2017

Class sizes at Cape Henlopen School District's newest elementary school are already bursting at the seams, prompting the hiring of more teachers.

Parent Jennifer Silva said her son's fifth-grade class at Love Creek Elementary has 32 students, and other fifth-grade classes are about the same size.

“The school looks pretty, but they overcrowded it,” she said. “This was supposed to help with the student population getting too big for the other area schools.”

Board President Andy Lewis said the district will hire a new fifth-grade teacher and another third-grade teacher to reduce class sizes. “We will be hiring new teachers at Love Creek,” he said.

Superintendent Robert Fulton said with new hires, the district hopes to lower class sizes from the 30s to the 20s.

He also said parents usually do not want to move their children into a new teacher's class, even if it means a smaller class.

“Everyone wants smaller classrooms but don't always want to move,” he said.

Elementary school enrollment

Love Creek 628
Shields 527
Rehoboth 471
Milton 443
H.O. Brittingham 425

Students for the new class will be chosen by the principal; students are chosen so that the class has a similar balance as other classrooms, he said. 

Fulton said the district tried its best to make sure classrooms were not overcrowded.

“There's a lot going on, and it hasn't been perfect, but we've continued to make adjustments,” he said. “Love Creek's sending area is a growth area.”

Class sizes were based on projections of where students live, he said.

All Cape Henlopen elementaries are at capacity, Fulton said. Shields Elementary, which had more than 700 last year, has about 500 this year. Shields’ larger enrollment last year was because its fifth-grade classrooms were housed in the Lewes School. With the opening of Love Creek this year, Fulton said, Shields fifth-graders were moved out of the Lewes School. because space was made for them at Shields. 

“Shields students are all in one building,” he said. “This was always the plan because we prefer having students in one building versus two. Having fifth-graders at the Lewes School was always a temporary solution to our space issues at Shields.”

Fulton said the intent was not to have all elementary schools at the same enrollment, and the there are no plans to redistrict elementary sending lines next year. “We know that as new schools are built with larger capacity, more students will be enrolling into them,” he said.

Fulton said classrooms in the Lewes School that were used by Shields fifth-graders are now being used by Sussex Consortium, which is housed in the Lewes School. A new Sussex Consortium will be built on Sweetbriar Road, and renovations at the Lewes School should begin in 2019, said Brian Bassett, director of facility operations and construction.

School choice has also been discontinued for out-of-district students. Only requests by district students whose siblings attend Cape schools or who are children of employees are being considered for choice requests, he said.

At Milton Elementary, Fulton said, the state has allowed the school to limit the number of school-choice requests in anticipation of the school body moving into the old H.O. Brittingham Elementary when renovations begin at Milton Elementary.

At Rehoboth Elementary, the district has hired paraprofessionals for its three kindergarten classrooms. There are 25 students in each class; the district can hire additional paraprofessionals when a kindergarten through third-grade class exceeds 22 students, said Assistant Principal Cathy Petitgout.

Fulton said he welcomes any concerns from parents. “We encourage parents to tell us what your thoughts are,” he said.

Silva said she has contacted the district and school board, and she has received no response. She said she will remember that next time the district goes to referendum asking residents for more money.

“You built a brand new school, and you built it to capacity already,” she said. “My kid can't even buy lunch because the line is so long. By the time he gets his lunch, the lunch period is over.”

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