Cape Henlopen Vice President Spencer Brittingham was so happy with a commitment from the board to fix racial imbalances at Milton elementary schools, he could barely contain himself.
"I'm in gloating mode now and am having trouble concentrating on the rest of the agenda," he said during the April 25 school board meeting.
Superintendent Robert Fulton presented the board with a recommendation for building improvements that placed Milton Elementary and H.O. Brittingham Elementary schools at the top of the list.
"This way, we aren't going to wait three to four years to decide what to do with Milton," he said. "This takes care of HOB and Milton."
Second on Fulton's list of priorities is expanding the middle schools; third, involves the construction of a new, fifth elementary school. Both the middle school expansion and the new elementary are designed to handle district growth, he said.
The district's last priority is addressing its aging elementary schools: Rehoboth Elementary, Shields Elementary, Milton Elementary and H.O. Brittingham Elementary.
The board agreed more community input is needed as it discusses needed improvements to the district's elementary schools.
The latest plan is one that Fulton said he believes the community will accept.
"I feel I can sell this and have community support," he said. "We need to keep it simple for the community."
Fulton's proposal deviates from the Facilities Task Force plan presented in March. That plan called for the construction of four new elementary schools housing kindergarten through fifth grade and renovations at Milton Elementary; it kept the same configuration of the two Milton elementary schools, which lie less than a mile apart.
This plan was never acceptable by Brittingham, board member Noble Prettyman and other board members who have questioned the racial imbalance at the otherwise educationally comparable schools.
All board members agree that fixing the Milton situation is top priority.
"We've got to address this situation in Milton," said board President Andy Lewis. "I think this it the cleaner and better way if we can make it work ... if nothing else, it gives us the chance to see if this kind of split works."
Board member Roni Posner, who has reservations about a permanent kindergarten to second-grade school at HOB and a third- to fifth-grade school at Milton Elementary, said she supports the plan in the short run to resolve racial imbalances.
"Until new elementary schools are decided upon by the community and built, I will support this K to 2 and 3 to 5 plan. But first we seven members of the school board need to hear from the community."
Fulton said the district would schedule meetings within each of Cape Henlopen's communities in the near future.
Hearing from the community is important as the board moves forward with its plan – one that eventually will be presented for voter approval in the form of a referendum, Fulton said.
The meetings will give residents a chance to let the board know whether tearing down some of the old, historic facilities and building new is preferable to renovating existing facilities. School size is also an area of discussion that remains open.
Brittingham, Prettyman and board members Jen Burton and Sandi Minard have all supported the concept of a super school built on the H.O. Brittingham site that could house up to 1,400 students.
Although a K-2 and 3-5 split at the Milton schools could change the need for a super school in Milton, Burton said the super school still is a viable idea if the district builds a new fifth school.
"We really need to take a look at that," she said.