Cape officials mulling land purchase options

District office needs to move so Cape High can expand
August 1, 2023

With expanding Cape High the next priority after the new middle school opens in Lewes, officials are eyeing land on which to relocate the adjacent district office and provide usable space on campus.

At the July 21 school board meeting, Director of Operations Jason Hale said a University of Delaware enrollment study shows that more than 7,000 students will be in the district by 2030; he said such growth will likely occur well before then. 

Cape High needs more classrooms, storage and improved facilities, he said, and additional parking and stormwater management will be required if expansion takes place. 

The district is also considering a natatorium, Hale said, along with extension of the life skills program for the Sussex Consortium and a centrally located bus maintenance facility.

“The purchase of land is critical,” Hale said. “That is the key component of being able to do anything for us moving forward.”

Land is scarce and expensive in the local area, Hale said, and the most fiscally prudent thing would be to purchase it now, before it becomes even more expensive.

The district had originally considered a roughly 300-acre property at the intersection of Mulberry Knoll and Cedar Grove roads near Lewes, but has now targeted a 103-acre portion of that original location.

If approved by the board, the next step would be to submit a certificate of necessity to the Delaware Department of Education, Hale said. If the state does not approve the 103-acre property, the district would request a 58-acre portion of that land, he said.

The district will work with an architect on design options and have a construction management firm estimate total costs for the preliminary submission. If DOE issues a certificate of necessity, he said, planning would then begin for a referendum.

Unlike school construction projects or land purchases for school construction, which are 60% state-funded and 40% locally funded, Cape Superintendent Bob Fulton said, the district office would be 100% locally funded.

Further discussions on the plan will take place at August board meetings, Hale said.

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