Cape sets middle school enrollment areas

Elementary attendance zones are next to be adjusted
October 3, 2023

Middle school enrollment areas are set in the Cape district after a unanimous board vote Sept. 28 to reorganize student feeder patterns before the fall 2024 opening of Frederick D. Thomas Middle in Lewes.

Both Beacon and Mariner middle schools have about 700 students each, Superintendent Bob Fulton said, and both campuses use modular trailers that will no longer be needed when the new school opens.

Director of Operations Jason Hale said a redistricting committee worked to create new attendance zones that would put the least disruption on students while providing the most equitable distribution across schools. 

The committee evaluated student demographics to ensure equity and considered special programs such as Spanish immersion and CAP; current immersion students will be given the option to stay with their cohort, he said. 

Building permits issued from 2008 to 2021 in each elementary zone were studied to gauge growth, he said. In that time, 3,926 permits were pulled in the Love Creek Elementary area; 2,356 in the Rehoboth Elementary zone; 2,365 in Lewes Elementary; 1,166 in H.O. Brittingham Elementary; and 2,332 in Milton Elementary.

The committee determined that current H.O. Brittingham students would attend Mariner and Lewes Elementary students would attend Frederick D. Thomas, Hale said. 

While the objective was to not move students to any school except Fred Thomas, Hale said a small area in the southwestern corner of the district that was a Mariner feeder zone will now feed into Beacon. This location in the Harbeson Road-Hollyville Road area currently has 19 sixth and seventh graders.

Board member Julie Derrick said she didn’t like the idea of moving current Mariner students to Beacon; board member Jessica Tyndall, who also served on the attendance zone committee, said developments popping up in that area will unbalance student numbers if the area isn’t rezoned. 

During public comment, a mother asked if students who were choiced into their schools would remain; board President Alison Myers said the choices would hold, as most choice regulations come from the state. Fulton said the district can’t legally force students to leave their approved choice school. 

Choice will not be approved for current students who will be changing middle schools, because it will make null and void everything the committee has done, Fulton said, noting he understands it feels unfair. In-district choice requests have not been approved for several years, he said.

Cape schools have been at capacity, so the district has not approved choice requests from outside the district for several years, he said; only the children of staff who live outside the district have been approved. In all, 80% of choiced students from outside the district are the children of full-time employees, he said.

A father asked if all programs offered at Mariner would also be at Fred Thomas, noting he had heard rumors that the new middle school would not have sports teams its first year. Myers assured him such programs would be offered at Fred Thomas, stating that an additional middle school will give more students the opportunity to participate.

The feeder pattern for Frederick D. Thomas is essentially the greater Lewes area in the center of the school district, with students in Milton set to attend Mariner and students in the Love Creek-Rehoboth-Dewey areas to attend Beacon. To view the full presentation, go to

Elementary zones

Elementary school enrollment areas need to be addressed again just a few years after they were last set, Fulton said. 

In 2020, the board voted to alleviate crowding at Love Creek for the 2021-22 school year by shifting some students to Rehoboth and Milton schools, decreasing numbers at Love Creek by more than 100 students.

However, Fulton said, growth in the Route 9/Route 24 corridor has again caused crowding at Love Creek, which now has a total of 706 students, including Sussex Consortium students who attend classes at Love Creek.

Current attendance rates for the district’s other elementary schools, including Consortium students, are as follows: H.O. Brittingham, 534; Lewes Elementary, 573: Milton Elementary, 565; and Rehoboth Elementary, 552.

“The good news is we have space in our five elementary schools for every one of our kids,” Fulton said. “What we don’t have is space in one of our schools currently for all the kids, so we need to make some adjustments.”

In the next few weeks, Fulton said, he will meet with a planning team and parents for feedback, and present information to the board for discussion at its Oct. 26 meeting, with a recommendation and possible vote set for Nov. 16 and on Dec. 14, if necessary.

Student choice at Love Creek will be evaluated, he said, noting that 20 students who live outside the district and attend the school are on the table for first discussions before any boundaries are changed. 

An audit will also be conducted to ensure enrolled students actually live within the district, he said, and additional or new evidence of residency may be required.

View the full presentation at

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