State denies Cape High classroom expansion

Locally funded land purchase, district office, pool, bus shed approved; plans forthcoming in January
December 22, 2023

The state denied the district’s request for more classrooms at Cape High, but it gave the go-ahead to pursue purchasing part of a land parcel originally sought, as well as the construction of a district office, transportation building and pool – all of which would be locally funded.

At the Dec. 14 school board meeting, Cape Superintendent Bob Fulton said the district submitted two certificates of necessity to the state to meet needs stemming from the district’s growing student enrollment. 

“The only portion of our certificate of necessity that was approved was the 100% local portion,” Fulton said. “So, the portion we needed the most, which was the high school expansion, was not approved because it was the only part that was a 60/40 split [with the state].”

Fulton said he was disappointed because the state only allowed the district to fund its own projects, and did not approve any projects to which it contributes. 

“We know the land our buildings are currently on are very limited for larger projects, and we know the high school is now over 2,000 students,” Fulton said.

Cape High was just expanded in 2021, when a two-story wing was constructed to hold 400 students in 20 classrooms and four Consortium spaces. 

The first certificate sought approval to purchase a 103-acre parcel off Cedar Grove and Mulberry Knoll roads. The property would cost about $15 million and be funded 60/40, state/local. The certificate included a request for a $21 million district office, a $40 million pool complex and a $6 million bus maintenance facility. 

Plans call for the district office to be relocated to this site so that the high school can be expanded on its footprint. State funding was denied for the 103-acre purchase.

The large tract could have housed another elementary school which would alleviate crowding at Love Creek Elementary, Fulton said, noting that the price of land per acre has doubled since the district purchased the property for Love Creek Elementary several years ago.

In case the state denied funding for the large parcel, district officials had requested the ability to purchase up to 59 acres of that large parcel, which would cost about $9 million and be funded 100% locally. 

This request was approved, Fulton said, but the state doesn’t contribute funds for a district office, pool or bus facility, or for the properties on which they are built. 

The state denied the district’s second certificate of necessity that requested renovations at Cape High, including a two-story, 24-classroom addition; athletic fields and facility upgrades; parking and stormwater management. The total estimated cost of $69 million would have been split 60/40, state/local.

The district will apply for this need again next year, Fulton said.

“The high school was and still is the No. 1 priority for us, but in order to do something at the high school site, we need to move the district office and we need land to move the district office to,” he said.

The district office is bursting at the seams, he said. About 41 employees are housed in the main office, with another 40 staff members working out of the Fred Thomas Building on DuPont Avenue in Lewes. 

Additionally, Fulton said, school leaders have long discussed a pool, which could be for all district students and the public.

“I don’t see it as just a school district or a swimming team thing,” Fulton said. “I see it as a community thing as much as possible because I think there’s a lot of need in our community for everybody to have some type of facility like that.”

The current high school was built after passing a referendum by a narrow margin, Fulton said. That referendum included a separate vote to approve a pool, which was defeated by fewer than 100 votes, he said. 

Additionally, school buses have been parking in various places for years, he said, and a central parking lot is needed, as well as a maintenance yard and eventually a charging station.

The district will need to decide by the end of January if it will move forward with a March or April 2024 referendum, Fulton said.


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