The Cape Henlopen school board narrowed to four a list of potential sites for a new elementary school during its regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 8.
The board OK'd getting appraisals for four parcels of land: a tract across Route 24 from Beacon Middle School, another near the intersection of Plantation Road and Route 24, and two properties off of Beaver Dam Road near the Five Points intersection.
"We really are on the stretch run. We can see the finish line," Brian Bassett, director of administrative services for the district.
The four properties were among nine that a state Preliminary Land Use group recently reviewed. The district is waiting for comments from state agencies involved in the process. These include the Department of Transportation, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Contract, the Department of Education and the State Fire Marshal, all of which evaluate the proposed building site and provide pros and cons for building at the site before a site is selected.
The proposed elementary school could house 720 students and ease overcrowding in the remaining four elementary schools within the Cape Henlopen school district. A recently released population study by the University of Delaware estimates the district would have 411 more elementary students in 20 years than it has today. Overall, the district would increase by 1,119 for a total of 6,049 students, the study noted – a distinct drop from the 6,890 student population a similar University of Delaware study predicted in 2007.
Based on those numbers, a Facilities Task Force recommended earlier this year three new schools for Shields, Rehoboth and H.O. Brittingham elementaries and renovations for Milton Elementary. All schools would have housed up to 840 students under the earlier proposal.
Revisions to the original task force proposal downsized the original plan quite a bit – a good thing since, Bassett said, Cape would not have received state approval for the entire building project.
"DOE disclosed that if we had asked for everything, they wouldn't have approved it," he said at a July meeting.
Downscaled plans now include a new elementary school and adding more classrooms to both Beacon and Mariner middle schools to accommodate student growth.
A rough estimate for the total building project, including the land purchase, is about $30 million, Bassett said.
Of the $30 million, the state would pay 60 percent if it approves the project, leaving about $12 million in the local share residents would pay. Residents would have the chance to vote on building project during a referendum, possibly next spring, Bassett said.