Delaware News

Local groups line up to use renovated Willis Intermediate

Changes to district's oldest building will open up space for public use


Willis Intermediate School is the oldest building in the Delaware City School District -- and the last one scheduled to receive renovations under the district's new building plan.

The school was built in 1883, with additions and renovations made in 1933.

The structure eventually will be transformed into a multipurpose building for school administration, housing a virtual learning center and space for community use.

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

The funding for renovations to Willis and the district's other seven buildings was approved by voters last month. The 3.6-mill bond issue will be drawn out over four years and, by 2017, will cost homeowners about $60 more annually per $100,000 in property value.

The district hopes to begin renovations in spring 2014 at Hayes High School and Schultz Elementary School.

Superintendent Paul Craft said many community organizations have told him they want to partner with the district to use Willis after construction ends.

Those organizations include helplines, the Arts Castle, Grady Memorial Hospital, the YMCA and community theater groups.

"We have received interest from a wide variety of groups and we will most definitely get our stakeholder input on what to do with the building before beginning renovations," Craft said.

Craft said district leaders aren't expecting to make many changes, with plans more focused on maintaining the building and space.

One idea that has come about is to change the old library on the second floor, which had been converted into three classrooms, back into a library space. The room then would provide a large meeting space for community groups and school alumni.

School administrative offices will be housed in the building and Craft said they will use the rooms as they are currently configured, with perhaps the addition of cubicles.

"We won't see a whole lot of change to the original structure," he said. "Due to the historical nature of the building, we are reluctant to make major changes."

Since Willis fifth- and sixth-grade students will move into the five elementary schools and Dempsey Middle School, teachers and Willis administrative staff will be moved as well.

"Teachers will have opportunities to provide input on their placement preferences, post for other positions that become available in the district, et cetera," Craft said. "The formal process is yet to be worked out."

Craft said the principals will be assigned as needed throughout the district.

"We intend to stand the sixth grade up as a 'school within a school' for the first year or two of its existence at Dempsey while we make the transaction, so one of our Willis administrators will be assigned there," he said.