Sussex Tech moves forward with new high school plans

PLUS review considering location
July 12, 2013

Sussex Technical School District plans to build a new high school at a location that has not yet been selected.

School officials attended a Preliminary Land Use Service meeting June 26 in Dover to discuss four land parcels the district is considering for a new school site.

The first parcel is across the street from the existing high school, on Route 9 west of Georgetown. The school owns some of the land across the roadway, but the rest is part of the Krueger farm, said Michael Horsey of Common Sense Solutions LLC, a construction management company representing Sussex Tech during the PLUS proceedings.

"It would be an easier transition than moving a few miles down the road," he said.

Sussex Tech Superintendent A.J. Lathbury said while district officials would prefer the parcel across the road from the current school, they will listen to what PLUS officials determine is the best site before a final site decision is made.

Lathbury said Sussex Tech intends to build a 420,000-square-foot career and educational facility with related amenities to accommodate the Tech's growing population and programs. The new school would be 52,000 square feet larger than the current facility.

"Sussex County is the fastest growing county in the state, which is reflected in the growing student population throughout the county," he said. "The district is attempting to be prudent and build to future needs rather than a facility that would be outgrown prior to completion."

Technical programs also require more space than traditional programs; shop and lab space require floor space for industrial equipment and equipment storage, he said.

At a cost of $302 per square foot, the new high school would cost about $127 million.

Unlike other school districts, Sussex Tech does not have to get voter approval for building projects. However,school officials must receive bond bill money from the state legislature in order to proceed.

"This is an arduous process that our request has been involved in for years," Lathbury said. "If and when DOE approves the request for a certificate of necessity and the process is followed, it does not mean the project is recommended for the bond bill. Sometimes it may be years from the time a certificate of necessity is approved and then introduced in the bond bill."

In recent years, Sussex Tech's admission policy has come under criticism from other districts. In 2010, five Sussex County school districts signed a resolution requesting Sussex Tech return to its vocational roots by accepting all students who would benefit from a vocational education instead of accepting academically college-bound students. Sussex Tech's admissions policy requires at least a 70 average in order for a student to attend, a policy that also drew criticism from several downstate legislators.

However, Lathbury said, Sussex Tech maintains its admission policy.

"For students to be eligible they must have a completed application and demonstrate a minimal proficiency to attend the ninth-grade by displaying a 70 in each class," he said.

Lathbury said he expects to hear back from the PLUS review in August. Once a site is approved by the PLUS process, Lathbury said, the district will request a certificate of necessity from the Department of Education – a step necessary before a new school can be built.



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