A Facilities Task Force will present its findings on future needs of district elementary schools to Cape Henlopen School Board Feb. 28.
"The lion's share of what we're doing is because we're out of space, but it's also to have the best schools going forward into the 21st century," said task force member Christopher Weeks.
The task force has met for nine months to develop a plan addressing building needs for elementary students. The group used a 2007 University Delaware study on projected school enrollments in determining how to plan for future growth.
The report estimates student populations in five-year increments beginning in 2005 and ending in 2030, when Cape's student population is expected to have climbed nearly 60 percent to 6,890, according to the study. Fulton said the state allows districts to build for future growth – a change from past policy that required districts use current population numbers.
In order to prepare for growth, Fulton said bigger schools are needed. Originally the task force discussed schools for 840 students; the most recent plan calls for four new schools, each with space for 700 students, and renovations to Milton Elementary School to increase capacity to 700. Classroom additions at Beacon and Mariner middle schools are also planned.
The three-phase plan – trimmed from an earlier five-phase plan – starts with a proposal to build two schools: a new school west of Route 1, in a yet-to-be-determined area between Routes 9 and 24, and a new Shields Elementary in the open area behind the Lewes School.
In addition, classroom additions would be built at Mariner and Beacon middle schools – six classrooms at Mariner and 12 at Beacon. Sussex Consortium classes would be consolidated in the Lewes School; administrative offices and Osher Lifelong Learning would move to the Fred Thomas School on the same property as the Lewes School.
In Phase 2, Milton Elementary School would be renovated; students would move into the old Shields Elementary School during construction. In Phase 3 new schools would be built at the current sites of H.O. Brittingham and Rehoboth elementary schools.
A timeline for the three-phase project has not been released.
"I think the job this group has done should be commended," said Superintendent Robert Fulton during a Feb. 13 meeting of the task force. "I think this group put the time and energy to get this right."
A preliminary cost for new construction, renovation and equipment for the new facilities was estimated at $125 million. This price, however, does not include money to buy land for an anticipated new school, said Brian Bassett, director of administrative services.
The task force is made up of 23 members; about half are district employees. The other half is made up of parents, former educators and grandparents. Most live in Lewes; two live in Milton, one in Millsboro and one in Rehoboth Beach.
The task force will present its recommendation to Cape Henlopen school board during the next meeting, 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at Beacon Middle School.