Cape building plan raises questions
Cape Henlopen School District’s facilities planning task force is preparing to recommend to the school board a five-phase school improvement plan.
It calls for three large, new elementary schools to replace Richard A. Shields Elementary in Lewes, Rehoboth Elementary School and H.O. Brittingham Elementary in Milton, each school offering enough space for 840 children. In a later phase, Milton Elementary School would see renovations.
The plan’s first phase focuses on Shields, but also calls for additional classrooms at the district’s two middle schools.
Planning for growth is never easy, but as the economy recovers, population growth in the Cape Region can be expected to ramp up. The area’s fastest-growing population is likely to be retirees, but Cape schools still expect more students.
It’s disappointing, however, that the plan includes no discussion of a critical issue that more than a year ago prompted long-range and later facilities planning: Milton has two elementary schools, just a mile apart, and both serve children in kindergarten to fifth grade. The board debated changes to the configuration in 2003 and again in 2008 – but the elephant is still in the room: Brittingham elementary students are 75 percent low income and 43 percent white, while at Milton elementary those numbers are reversed: 40 percent are low-income students and 72 percent are white.
To the district’s credit, both schools last year received the state’s same favorable academic rating, but the task force plan does not even consider realigning these schools.
It is also befuddling that the plan calls for new, enlarged elementary schools east of Route 1 – Shields and Rehoboth – when the fastest-growing areas of the district are west of Route 1.
This plan would condemn some of the district’s youngest children to long bus rides every day, before and after school.
Shields Elementary School is overcrowded; change is clearly needed. But if phase 1 of the plan brings a new school is anywhere, it should be west of Route 1, where the growing population of children is most likely to live.