Cape plans changes for middle school enrollment areas

The opening of Frederick D. Thomas Middle to alleviate crowding in 2024-25
September 5, 2023

With a year to go until Frederick D. Thomas Middle School opens to students in Lewes, Cape district officials are set to redefine middle school enrollment areas by the end of this September.

Director of Operations Jason Hale presented an update at the Aug. 24 school board meeting regarding ongoing work by a committee comprising parents from all elementary schools, board members and administrators.

Both Beacon and Mariner middle schools had about 650 students enrolled last year in buildings with capacity for 535 students, he said, and the University of Delaware projects that each school will have more than 700 students by 2030.

The committee has been reviewing attendance zone lines and is working to balance student numbers while also considering transportation logistics, socioeconomic factors, distance to school and special programs, he said.

To assist, he said, the University of Delaware used last year’s enrollment data to plot on a map all students in relation to their closest middle school. Using that as a starting point, he said, numbers came to 530 students at Beacon, 484 at Mariner and 275 at Frederick D. Thomas.

The committee then evaluated student numbers in grade-level groups to look for any emerging patterns, he said, and discussed ways to shift pockets of students from one zone to another.

A subsequent draft of a proposed middle school enrollment zone put 419 students at Beacon, 445 at Frederick D. Thomas and 506 at Mariner Middle, he said.

The committee will continue to look at demographics and special programs, he said, and will run new scenarios with updated student numbers. A second presentation will take place at the Thursday, Sept. 14 school board meeting, with a final recommendation to the board set for Thursday, Sept. 28, he said.

Frederick D. Thomas Middle School is set to open to students in fall 2024 on the site of the former Shields Elementary. The building is named after the first African American administrator in the Cape Henlopen School District, and will be overseen by Principal Dave Frederick, former Beacon Middle principal.

The new middle school was approved by referendum in March 2018 and sits just across Sussex Drive from Lewes Elementary School, which opened in April 2022. The two schools will share a campus that stretches from Savannah Road to DuPont Avenue.

At the board meeting, construction manager Dean Johnson of Richard Y. Johnson & Son said the building's structural steel is complete, window installation has begun, and sod is set to be laid about mid-September.

For the full board presentation, go to


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