Work continues at new consortium building amid school closure

Pool, second gym, finishing touches being completed
March 19, 2020

With schools closed until May 15, Sussex Consortium officials are using the unexpected time without students to complete some remaining work on the new school.

Cape Director of Capital Projects Brian Bassett said crews are working on the pool and second gym.

“We also have them working on touch-up paint, cleaning and power washing,” Bassett said. “Teachers have moved in, and their rooms look great. We were ready for opening day, but the break is allowing us to touch up some areas and continue on the alternates.”

Originally set to open March 16, the $44 million, state-funded school for special-needs students is an option to all county school district students with an educational classification of autism. 

A calming and colorful water feature in the main hall greets students and staff, and was added because Consortium students at Love Creek, H.O. Brittingham and Rehoboth Elementary gravitate toward water features in those schools, Bassett said.

Natural lighting is supplied by the school’s many windows. Students are divided by age, with older students upstairs. All classrooms have connecting bathrooms and two-way glass for observation. Heating and cooling are controlled individually in each room, as some students have heat sensitivity, Bassett said.

“There are cameras everywhere and all doors are access-controlled for security,” Bassett said.

A trail meanders through the back of the property, around a pavilion and man-made pond, a nod to Blockhouse Pond in Lewes, and a hill. Bassett said outdoor fitness equipment and perhaps a large-scale chess board will be added. 

The trail and playground will be open to the public when school is not in session, Bassett said.

“The playground is screaming to be used,” Bassett said. “It’s lonely to see a playground with no kids.”

A rooftop classsroom is also getting finishing touches. “We want to give students and staff the opportunity to see as much daylight as possible,” Bassett said.

New to any Consortium building is a library, housed on the first floor.

Yet to be revealed are the businesses that will set up space in the school’s occupational wing, where students can practice life skills such as ordering and taking orders. Stores will be open to the public.

“We’ve had tremendous response from businesses wanting to open stores,” Bassett said.

A 25-seat theater will be used by staff during training and inservice days, and will transform into a movie theater for kids at night.

“Some kids aren’t able to go to the Movies at Midway due to sensory issues,” Bassett said. “We’ll have special movie nights for families. The cafe will be open with popcorn and sodas. Students will be able to practice getting food and watching movies, and this will help them adapt to going to a large theater.”

In 2016, Delaware agreed to purchase 26 acres fronting Sweetbriar Road and pay costs to construct the Consortium; original plans called for a 67,000-square-foot building with 28 classrooms.

Construction began in May 2018, but the original timetable was set back after the state awarded additional funding in August 2018, allowing for an indoor pool, 18 additional classrooms and a second gym.

Asbestos removal has begun at the Lewes School, which will become Shields Elementary, on Savannah Road. The current Shields Elementary will be demolished to make way for a new middle school in its place.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter