About two months remain until the 95,000-square-foot, $38 million Lewes Elementary opens to students.
Renovation of the historic 1921 building on Savannah Road began in late spring 2020, with modern additions being constructed to house current Shields Elementary students. The Cape Henlopen school board approved naming the building Lewes Elementary in August 2021.
Wings were added to the rear of the original building while renovations to the original section, including the gym and auditorium, have taken place. When the building opens Monday, April 25, just after spring break, the facility will be able to hold 625-650 students, about 100 more than currently attend Shields.
After Shields students move into Lewes Elementary, asbestos removal will begin at Shields; then the old building will be demolished to make way for construction of the district’s third middle school, which was approved by referendum in 2018 and expected to be complete in May or June 2024.
Construction costs are under budget, and any remaining funds will probably be transferred to the shared campus middle school project, Cape Director of Capital Projects Brian Bassett said.
The only thing that might change the Lewes Elementary move-in date is when the wooden doors for all rooms arrive, Bassett said. Delivery is expected by March 20, and the building can’t open without them, Bassett said.
“This project has been extra challenging with the COVID pandemic and the renovation of the historic building combined with the new sections,” Bassett said. “However, we are extremely excited with the way the project has turned out and can’t wait for the students to start using the building.”
The original building’s date stone shows 1921, and the first school year was likely 1921-22, Bassett said, noting the new school will open during the building’s 100-year anniversary.
The school incorporates subtle nods to Lewes, including colors representing homes throughout town. The large, mature trees on the front lawn will remain, Bassett said.
Bassett said he had hoped the old wooden gymnasium floor could be salvaged, but moisture from the basement made most of it unusable; it will be replaced with a similar wooden floor. Reclaimed gym flooring will be used as wall art in the new corridor/entrance from the cafeteria to the auditorium, Bassett said.
The basement, which once housed an indoor firing range for the Lewes High School rifle club, will be transformed into a professional development space for educators and a meeting room for the community. Historic photos of Lewes will line the basement walls, Bassett said.
Buses will drop students off on Sussex Drive, the western side of the school, while other traffic will enter via Savannah Road on the eastern side of the school facing Beebe Healthcare.
Tetra Tech architects designed Lewes Elementary and all other recent district elementary schools, and construction manager Richard Y. Johnson & Son has also overseen construction at all recent schools.