Cape Henlopen school board members unanimously decided to pursue building a new elementary school and classroom additions at the middle schools as part of its latest plan to address overcrowding.
The June 13 decision was months in the making as board members reviewed a task force recommendation on new elementary schools, listened to community input during public forums and discussed the needs of each of the district's elementary schools.
"We don't feel like we could do the middle schools, the fifth school and all the other elementary schools," said board President Andy Lewis.
The board unanimously approved a proposal by board member Sandi Minard to forward the plan for a new elementary school and middle school expansion to the state for approval – a necessary step before a school district can present a referendum to the public for vote.
By the end of June, Director of Administrative Services Brian Bassett said he would submit a plan for a 700-student elementary school to be built in an area to be announced west of Route 1 and between routes 9 and 24. He said they could hear back from the state by the end of the summer.
"We have to get more space for our kids, and a fifth school would do that," Superintendent Robert Fulton said. "That meets our needs for 30 years."
The board also acknowledged it would continue to examine renovations needed at the elementaries on a school-by-school basis.
Their decision gives them more time to decide how to proceed with the four existing elementary schools, all of which have been renovated with money raised from five capital improvement referendums since 2001. The last was a $1.4 million bond issued in 2006 specifically to renovate and fix boilers at Rehoboth, Milton, H.O. Brittingham elementary schools and the Lewes School.
The task force recommendation released in February suggested replacing Rehoboth, Shields and HOB with new schools and renovating Milton – an idea that did not sit well with some board members.
"I'm not for the task force proposal where we tear down three schools and renovate one," said board member Jen Burton. "I think we need to be fiscally responsible with all the money we've put into those schools."