Indian River: Concern is building amid enrollment growth, overcrowding

SELBYVILLE – For some time the Indian River School District has experienced growing pains.

The district’s student enrollment as of Sept. 30, 2015 topped 10,000 – the first time in district history. Indian River’s district-wide tally was 10,171. That was an increase of 329 students from the 9,843 on Sept. 30, 2014.

The school district’s Futures Committee has had ongoing discussion focused on possible solutions to address overcrowding via possible expansion and new construction. The committee has developed a series of option plans.

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A special meeting of the Indian River School District’s board of education this Monday, Feb. 29 at the Indian River Educational Complex could provide some direction as to what path the district may take.

“I would suspect that there will be some kind of decisions out of that to move forward with,” said Indian River School District school board president James Hudson, chairman of the Futures Committee.

Increased enrollment is particularly prominent in the northern portion of the district, in Georgetown and Millsboro at the elementary level.

“That area has just exploded,” said Mr. Hudson.

The district’s newest buildings are Indian River High School, which opened in September 2005, and Sussex Central High School in September 2004.

Those high schools were packaged in a May 2000 referendum approved by district voters. The referendum also included renovations, new classrooms and a kitchen expansion at Lord Baltimore Elementary and renovations to nine other buildings. The total cost was $67 million. The referendum generated the district’s local share of $26.8 million.

In late January 2013 voters approved a $4.4 million local-share referendum that funded construction of 38 new classrooms: eight each at North Georgetown, East Millsboro, Long Neck and the Georgetown Elementary/Middle complex; four at Phillip C. Showell Elementary and two new classrooms at Selbyville Middle School. In addition, Georgetown Elementary received a new kitchen.

All projects are now complete except the Georgetown Elementary project, which is currently under construction.

The total cost of the projects was $11,011,000. A current expense component was also approved to fund teacher salaries, supplies, technology and utility and fuel expenses.

The Futures Committee has generated three potential options: Plans A, B and C.

All are subject to change, Mr. Hudson said.

Plan A:

  • New Howard T. Ennis facility;
  • Two elementary schools;
  • New middle school;
  • Expansion of Sussex Central High School;
  • Career Center at Indian River High School;
  • Expansion of Southern Delaware School of the Arts;
  • Relocation of the Indian River Education Complex.

Plan B:

  • New Howard T. Ennis facility;
  • Two elementary schools;
  • New high school;
  • Move Georgetown Middle School into Sussex Central High School;
  • Career Center at Indian River High School;
  • Expansion of Southern Delaware School of the Arts;
  • Relocation of the Indian River Education Complex.

The new elementary schools would be located at Ingram Pond and across from or on the campus of Sussex Central High School.

Plan C:

  • Ninth grade academy;
  • New elementary school at Ingram Pond;
  • New elementary school across from or on the campus of Sussex Central High School;
  • New middle school on the Sussex Central campus for about 250-300 Millsboro Middle School and 250-300 Georgetown Middle School students;
  • North Georgetown Elementary for Pre-K and first grades;
  • Georgetown Elementary for grades two through five;
  • Careen Center at Indian River High School;
  • Expansion of Southern Delaware School of the Arts; one classroom for each of the K-8 grade levels;
  • Relocation of Indian River Educational Complex.

Monday’s special meeting will begin at 6 p.m. The IREC is located on Hoosier St., in Selbyville.

“I think we are on verge of something. It may look a little different than any of the three plans that we have,” said Mr. Hudson. “I think the idea is three-fold. We’ve got to make sure that whatever we do is as economically feasible as possible. We need to make sure that we address our overcrowding and we’ve got to make sure that we continue to offer quality instruction. We want to make sure that we hit on all three of those things.”

Mr. Hudson emphasized that nothing at this time is etched in cement. He noted that the state would have to first approve the need before any plan or plans could be finalized in a referendum put before the voting public. The process culminating in construction would take several years.

“If that all went well then maybe sometime in the fall the public may hear from us and what we are planning. Then we can talk about programs. But even if we decide on something it is quite a long process,” Mr. Hudson said. “We’re probably behind. This process probably should have been started a year or two ago. But there was some sentiment on the board that we already some projects in the works and we kind of wanted to get that done first. I understood that. But I think we’ve kind of gotten behind the 8-ball here.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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