The Cape school board voted unanimously May 28 to award ABHA Architects the architecture/engineering contract for a new middle school to be constructed on the site of current Shields Elementary in Lewes.
Cape Director of Capital Projects Brian Bassett said the district received nine bids to design the school, which was approved in a March 2018 referendum.
“The middle school is the last piece of the puzzle,” Bassett said. “It’s our last approved project.”
The 600-student middle school is necessary because of increasing student enrollment, Bassett said. The district already owned the land; the design and construction budget is just under $40 million, of which 60 percent is state-funded and the rest is locally funded.
ABHA architect Bryan Williams, who attended Shields Elementary, will design the new middle school. A Cape grad, Williams also designed the Cape High expansion currently in process.
“I obviously feel deep privilege and consider this a career highlight to have been selected to again contribute a school to the town, community and school district which were all so influential during my formative years,” Williams said.
“Executing a new educational facility of such prominence within the City of Lewes is an honor, and I am extremely excited to reshape and update a campus where I attended kindergarten to ninth grade,” Williams added. “Thoughtful and invigorating design of education environments is critical to the growth and development of all students; I'm thrilled that in some small way I can help perpetuate the cycle of excellence that Cape Henlopen School District has fostered since its inception.”
Partial demolition is underway at the adjacent Lewes School, which is being renovated to become Shields Elementary and will open sometime during the 2021-22 school year, Bassett said. Once it opens, asbestos will be removed from the current Shields building, which will then be demolished.
“That process will take four to six months most likely, and then construction of the middle school can begin,” Bassett said. “The design process will take 13-18 months for the middle school, so we hope to have it ready for construction bidding around the same time Shields is moving into their new school.”
Bassett said work on Shields was delayed because state funding for the Consortium arrived late, so the Consortium was unable to move from the Lewes School to the new facility last summer.
“The new additions to Sussex Consortium were worth the wait,” he said. “It is important for us to try to get Shields into their new school during the 2021-22 school year. Luckily they are only moving across Sussex Drive, which will help us with logistics when the time comes to move in.”
District officials will have a more definitive move-in date after the existing Lewes School is renovated, Bassett said.
Bassett said the land next to the Fred Thomas building, which houses several district offices, will be used for athletic fields and additional parking.
“Cape is going to get a fantastic middle school,” Bassett said.