Two new teachers hired at Love Creek Elementary

Parents call for better communication from school district
October 6, 2017

Two new teachers hired to ease overcrowding in Love Creek Elementary's fifth- and third-grade classes began teaching on Wednesday, about a week after parents attended a Cape Henlopen school board meeting asking for more information about what the district planned to do.

“There's lots of talk, and it's not positive,” said Casey Hastings, a parent of a fifth-grader who could end up in a new classroom.

Hastings was one of six parents who attended the school board meeting Sept. 28 to voice concerns about overcrowded classrooms at Cape Henlopen's newest elementary school. They left hearing that a new fifth-grade teacher would be hired, but they still wondered why Love Creek Elementary had not provided more information.

“The biggest thing is that you're hiring a new teacher. Noboby knows what is going on … I feel like this is a secret that's being kept. Parents don't know, and that's a problem,” she said.

Cathy Petitgout, assistant superintendent, said a new third-grade teacher and a new fifth-grade teacher began Oct. 4.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, parent Jennifer Silva asked why Love Creek has enrollment of more than 600 students when other elementaries are closer to 400. “How did we take on so many kids?” she asked.

Board President Andy Lewis said part of the problem is the state public school choice law that requires a school accept students as long as the school has not reached 85 percent capacity.

“The school was not at capacity, and we had to accept school choice,” he said. “We can't say no to them.”

Adding to the school's enrollment, Superintendent Robert Fulton said at the end of August, there was a flurry of enrollment of students who live in the Love Creek Elementary sending district.

“It's hard to belive that many enrolled at the last minute, and at those two grades,” he said, speaking about the school's fifth-grade and third-grade classes. “I apologize for the large classes … but I can't recommend we hire teachers for half a million dollars if we don't have the numbers.”

Parent Angela Munsey said her family bought a home in the Love Creek sending district so that her son could attend the new school, and there may be other families who had the same idea. “That may be why you had so many kids,” she said.

Fulton said the district estimates a teacher costs $100,000 but it could be more depending on education experience and benefits; the new teachers are being paid out of state-approved unit-count money.

The principal decides which students will be put in the new classroom, Petitgout said.

Parents wanted to know whether their child would be put in a new class, so they could prepare them about an impending change.

“You're going to put them in a new class and disrupt them again,” Silva said.

Parent Daria Danilenko said parents need to know what's going on in the school. “There is a lack of communication,” she said.

Fulton said he received only two emails from parents about overcrowding, and he encouraged parents to share their concerns. “The point is we need to hear it,” he said.

Student growth in the district is an ongoing concern, Fulton said.

Board Vice President Jessica Tyndall said she knows of parents in the Indian River and Seaford school districts who choice into Cape Henlopen because of the district's great reputation.

“We have growing pains all over the district,” she said. “All of these kids are just showing up. We're trying to figure it out together.”

Tyndall said she anticipates Milton will be the next growth area when the new Bayhealth hospital south of Milford opens. “Milton is going to be the place where these families are going to move,” she said.

Lewis said he expects growth pains to continue. When Rehoboth Elementary opens in two years, he said, there will be more capacity there, and the district will have to redistrict in order to balance elementary enrollment.

And when that happens, he asked for patience.

“We don't sit up here and say, 'Yay, we just ruined everybody's life,'” he said.

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