Indian River School District and elected officials gathered Nov. 20 to mark the groundbreaking ceremony of the new $45 million Howard T. Ennis School across the street from Sussex Central High School.
Superintendent Jay Owens said the love, care and compassion staff provides to students is unparalleled, and the same level of support will continue in the new, $44.8 million, 95,000-square-foot building.
Teachers, therapists, nurses and paraeducators at Howard T. Ennis serve students with significant disabilities from preschool through age 21. The school operates an integrated preschool program, and community and workplace transition programs.
The new school, set on 32.5 acres, will include a therapy pool, greenhouse, playground, gym, storefront, large nursing suite and multiple rooms for speech, occupational and physical therapy, Owens said. Staff played a vital role in developing the new building, he added.
Howard T. Ennis originated in 1966 as The School for the Trainables at Jason Comprehensive High School in Georgetown, Owens said. After desegregation, it was transferred to Indian River School District, and in 1969, Delaware Technical Community College transferred land to the district to construct a new school on Ennis Road in Georgetown.
In 1971, the school was renamed in honor of Ennis, a longtime educator and the first superintendent of the Hospital for the Mentally Retarded at Stockley, then known as the Delaware Colony, Owens said.
Retired Superintendent Mark Steele said district officials began discussions about a new school in 2015, and that it was a proud day for the Indian River School District.
“The kids and the staff at Howard T. Ennis are wonderful,” Steele said. “If you've never been there, you need to go someday and take a look at what that staff does with the children that need this type of school.”
Howard T. Ennis Principal Kris Perfetti said the staff has waited a very long time for a new school.
“The staff knows how bad we need a new facility to provide extra-great care, therapies, instruction and love that we give to our students,” Perfetti said. “The learning that will happen on a daily basis in our new school will assist the Ennis Eagles to soar to new heights.”
District spokesperson David Maull said officials expect the school to open in September 2022.