As Delmarva Christian High School and Sussex Academy trade facilities, Sussex Academy officially opened its new doors to Sen. Tom Carper and U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives June 24.
To completely close the deal, Sussex Academy needed $15 million, with $1.5 million given to retire the mortgage on their previous facilities; $10 million to purchase the new school from Delmarva Christian High School, and approximately $4.5 million to pay for current and future construction. Within the $10 million to purchase the new facilities, USDA supplied a 40-year loan of $6.25 million, which was negotiated both in Delaware and in Washington, D.C. Kathy Beisner, a representative for USDA, said “We always receive great support from Senator Coons and Senator Carney.”
While the school may not be completely finished, Sussex Academy has raised significant funds to connect both sides of the building and to finish a few more classrooms for their new school building. Along with new classrooms, the school has also upgraded two rooms that are twice the size of what they were previously. The school has also hired five new teachers to fill the classrooms, for a total of 24 teachers, and will hire five more each year with the addition of another grade. The class sizes are still expected to remain under 25 students per class, with approximately 110 per grade.
As the school grows however, so will the classes. According to Alan Stafford, director of Sussex Academy, the biggest problem right now is “A lot of the offices are triangle-shaped,” and while some may only be big enough for storage, their future purpose is unclear. Eventually, when the school is complete, the plans are to expand on the other side of the gym and have the middle school and high school on separate sides of the building, and the auditorium be located roughly in the middle. As for the cosmetics of the building, Denise Macleish of USDA made it known that “All of the improvements were done by the fundraising of the school.”
With school starting August 26, Cohen Davis, a rising freshman, wasn’t concerned. “It’ll be a bit of a change, but I think we’ll get used to it. It might take the incoming freshmen longer to adjust, though,” he said. About 30 student openings remain to fill the first graduating class of Sussex Academy, and with registration open until September 30, the classes are expected to continue to grow.
As the students change their facilities, they will also be changing their colors to purple and navy blue and adopting a sea hawk as their mascot. Patricia Oliphant, director of Sussex Academy, said she finds the sea hawk to be a worldly bird, living on every continent except Antarctica, and because the school will be adding international baccalaureate programs, the bird is more than fitting for their school. Also, because DCHS was already purple, “We decided we needed to incorporate [the color] in some way,” Oliphant said.
Oliphant noted, “We have a new school, a new logo and new promises for what this school can do for Sussex County,” and with this switch the schools can better serve their student population. During his visit Carper said, “What I like about charter schools is you get to try something new, something different.” Sussex Academy has opened to a new and different facility, and on August 12 it will welcome the first high school class at their freshman orientation. “You’re lucky - we’re lucky - to have this school,” said Carper.