The Sussex Consortium is set to open to students Monday, March 16.
The fire marshal was scheduled to inspect the new school Monday, March 9, Cape Director of Capital Projects Brian Bassett said. Pending approval, teachers will begin moving from the Lewes School to the new building Wednesday, March 11, and will begin setting up classrooms Thursday, March 12. Students do not have school Friday, March 13.
Bassett said the move will allow Shields Elementary asbestos work to start this month.
“If we could stretch it out and move in over spring break we would,” Bassett said, “but our asbestos contract expires March 31, and it would cost an additional $500,000 more to do it in the summer when the contract rebids with new wage rates.”
A few construction items remain, Bassett said.
“We will need to finish the swimming pool after we move in,” Bassett said. “The pool has external access, so we can lock the area to prevent students or staff entering the zone as we complete the work.”
Because of delays from the roofing and siding company, some exterior areas still need to be finished, and will be completed in the evenings to not interfere with the school day, Bassett said.
The $44 million school is completely state-funded. In 2016, Delaware agreed to pay costs for construction and 26 acres fronting Sweetbriar Road. 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 a pool, 18 additional classrooms and a second gym.
Bassett said construction was especially challenging, because after the base building was started, construction was delayed while district officials waited for the additional funding to complete the other wings.
“The additional funding was divided over two years, which was also a challenge, since the base building was already under construction. Richard Y. Johnson [construction manager] has done a great job merging the multiple phases of construction into one project,” he said. “We are happy to finally be moving into the building.”
Currently located in the Lewes School on Savannah Road, the Sussex Consortium offers services to special-needs students and is an option to all county school district students with an educational classification of autism. About 70 percent of Consortium students live in the Cape district; the other 30 percent come from other county schools.
Roughly 200 students will attend the new school, and about 100 more Consortium students will be located in classrooms throughout district elementary, middle and high schools.
Once the Consortium moves from the Lewes School to its new location on Sweetbriar Road, renovations will begin on the Lewes School, which will become Shields Elementary. The current Shields Elementary will be demolished to make way for a new middle school.