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Cape starts negotiating for new school site

Two parcels eyed for new elementary
October 1, 2013

Cape Henlopen school board has narrowed to two the number of potential sites for a new elementary school, and is now talking price.

The district wants to build a new 720-student elementary school to ease overcrowding in Cape's existing four elementary schools. The school board agreed on building a new school after months of discussion about options to meet future student growth. Along with a new school, classroom additions to Mariner and Beacon Middle schools are proposed. The total proposed building plan is about $31 million. Of that, district taxpayers would pay about $12 million, if approved through a public referendum.

Director of Administrative Services Brian Bassett said owners of a 20-acre parcel of land across Route 24 from Beacon Middle School are interested in negotiating a purchase price. The Townsend family owns the Route 24 property and a few other parcels the district had considered.

The district is also interested in a site off of Beaver Dam Road owned by the Rollins family, Bassett said. A company in Georgia, however, handles property management for the Rollins family. Bassett said he understands family members are interested in selling the property, although no price has been mentioned.

“Family members have agreed to continue talks,” Bassett said.

In the event that family members who own the Beaver Dam Road property decide they do not want to negotiate, Bassett said, the board should consider a third property as an alternate – one of the nine parcels that received state review comments over the summer.

For the time being, district officials will ask state planning officials to conduct a deeper review of the properties to make sure they are suitable for a new elementary school, Bassett said.

This fall district enrollment was 5,050, said Cathy Petitgout, supervisor of Human Resources. The number could change depending on the number of students who move in or out of the district; a final number will be reported to the state Monday, Sept. 30, for the annual unit count, she said.

The state bases the number of teachers and staff in a school district on the unit count. Last year's student enrollment was 4,930, Petitgout said. If current levels continue, the district will have 120 more students over last year.

Bassett said he hopes to hear back from the state with their site evaluations by early October in order to keep the new school proposal moving forward. Board members agreed.

“Let's do it, let's get the letter in,” said board member Roni Posner.