Students at Sussex Central High say the passage of a May 7 referendum will alleviate overcrowding that causes stress and disruptions in Indian River School District schools.
Senior Trinity Amankwa said school hallways have gotten more crowded every year.
“Now sometimes I need to stand still and not move,” she said. “We have three lunch lines but it takes 20 minutes to get through, and we only have 30 minutes for lunch. Once in C lunch, they ran out of food.”
Junior Tristan Lane said there were not enough stools for students in his art class.
“Luckily, some students dropped the class, so now there are enough seats,” he said.
Freshman Bryttnei Amankwaa said students are more prone to fighting because of the overcrowding.
“A lot of fights start because someone’s foot got stepped on or they got pushed in the hallway,” she said. “I’ve seen people fall. It can be dangerous.”
The school is so crowded, Tristan said, emergency evacuation would be difficult.
District officials say student enrollment has grown from 8,871 in 2011 to 10,910 in 2019, and is projected to reach over 12,000 students by 2024.
A major capital improvement referendum to borrow $63.4 million is set for Tuesday, May 7, seeking funding to construct a new Sussex Central High with a 2,200-student capacity, an eight-classroom addition at Indian River High and a four-classroom addition at Selbyville Middle.Officials say the referendum will alleviate overcrowding, especially at Sussex Central High, where nearly 1,700 students are housed in a building designed for 1,500, and 22 teachers do not have classrooms and must use carts to move their materials from room to room.
The maximum property tax increase needed to fund the district’s 40 percent local share of $63.4 million of the construction projects is 35 cents per $100 of assessed value. This equates to a tax increase of less than $70 for the average district property owner. Officials say the increase will be phased in over a four-year period. After the 2023 fiscal year, the debt service rate will decrease every year until construction bonds are retired.
The remaining 60 percent of the building cost, just over $95 million, will be funded by state taxpayers.
Local share costs are $56.3 million for a new Sussex Central High adjacent to the existing school, $5.7 million for eight classrooms at Indian River High and $1.3 million for four classrooms at Selbyville Middle.
Projects to relocate Millsboro Middle to the existing Sussex Central High building and convert the existing Millsboro Middle into an additional elementary school will not require a property tax increase. Officials say they will also redistrict attendance areas in Georgetown, Millsboro and Long Neck to alleviate overcrowding.
The district is not seeking a separate tax increase for operating costs for a high school and elementary school. Removing the proposed 9-cent property tax rate increase from the failed Feb. 5 referendum will save taxpayers $18.59 per year.
Students said residents should vote in favor of the referendum.
“Our students are the next generation of workers, and a good education is needed,” Bryttnei said.
“People should vote for it even if they don’t have kids because we’ll be taking care of them somehow, someday,” Tristan added.
District residents who are U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age are eligible to vote. Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, May 7, at East Millsboro, Georgetown, Long Neck and Lord Baltimore elementaries; Selbyville Middle; and Indian River High.
Call 302-436-1079 or go to irsd.net/referendum.