Delaware News

Delaware Schools

District details renovation plans as May ballot's bond issue nears

$50 million in upgrades would affect all schools


Delaware City School District leaders and architects are working hard to put together a master plan of school renovations to ease overcrowding in the district's classrooms.

On May 7, the district will ask voters to approve a 3.6-mill bond issue that if approved would cost homeowners about $60 more each year per $100,000 in property value. The funds must be put toward district facilities.

Delaware school board members considered several plans and selected the most cost-effective option that will bring changes to existing buildings, rather than the construction of new buildings.

The total project cost is estimated at $50 million.

The plan would not require redistricting and would allow the schools to go back to the traditional grade alignment of grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, district leaders said.

Superintendent Paul Craft said since the fate of the May bond issue is unknown, the district doesn't have money to pay an architect to produce renovation plans in full.

Therefore, the district is relying on preliminary sketches and plans in order to have information to present to voters, Craft said.

The basic timeline is a three-year plan starting with short duration projects in summer 2013, such as improvements to create a fully secure perimeter that would ensure anyone entering a school has authorization.

Spring and summer 2014 is when the bulk of the projects would begin. All eight buildings will be occupied with students, which would make the renovations a bit of a challenge, Craft said.

Hayes High School and Schultz Elementary School have the most-immediate needs, so they would lead the way, he said.

"The architect we have working on the preliminary plans is the same architect who designed Schultz," Craft said. "They had designed the building to accommodate growth and know how to work with it."

The plan is to work on interior projects in the winter and exterior projects in the spring and summer until all plans are complete. Construction would continue through 2016, with all renovations to be completed by 2017.

Currently, five of the district's eight buildings are over capacity, with enrollment expected to continue to climb steadily in coming years. Projections show the district's population could swell from its current 5,318 students to nearly 6,000 by 2020.

The new grade alignment is expected to be implemented with the 2016-17 school year.

In addition to security upgrades, specific changes planned for each building if the bond passes include:

* Carlisle Elementary School, built in 1955, will receive an additional classroom wing, a new gymnasium, classroom renovations and changes in traffic patterns. The current classroom trailers will be removed.

* Conger Elementary school, built in 1966 and 1995, will receive additional classrooms and changes in traffic patterns, and the main entrance will be moved to Winter Street.

* Schultz Elementary School, built in 1995, will receive additional classrooms, an addition to the commons area and a major change in traffic patterns. Third-grade classes at Schultz will have 28 students per class.

* Smith Elementary School, built in 1950, will receive additional classrooms and a new gymnasium. Space limitations at Smith will prevent architects from adding a section, district leaders said, though the current classroom trailers will be removed.

* Woodward Elementary School, built in 1950, will receive additional classrooms, a new gymnasium, full-room renovations, and changes in traffic and drop-off patterns. The current classroom trailers will be removed.

* Dempsey Middle School, built in 2000, will receive additional classrooms, including a sixth-grade wing, additional commons, performance and specialty class space, and changes in traffic and drop-off patterns.

* Willis Intermediate School, built in 1883 and 1933, will be converted into a multipurpose building for school administration, housing a virtual learning center and space for community members to use.

Willis will have office and programming space available as well as an auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria available for public use.

* Hayes High School, built in 1962 and 1998, will receive additional classrooms and commons space, renovations to existing classrooms, changes and additions to parking, and upgrades to athletic facilities.

A field house also would be constructed to free up space in the main building.