IRSD board considering classroom conversion at Millsboro Middle School

DAGSBORO – Facing increasing space and capacity issues district-wide, Indian River School District is looking to create additional classroom space at Millsboro Middle School.

The district board of education at its July 16 meeting gave the green light go-ahead to proceed with architectural and mechanical design phase to convert the middle school’s existing tech educational shop area into four classrooms.

While there are no bids at present, school board member James Fritz informed board colleagues the estimated the project is going to run somewhere between $290,000 to about $440,000.

“The cost is high because the way the shop is designed, with tall ceilings, there is a lot of mechanical work and construction that needs to be done. It’s not just putting up walls,” said Mr. Fritz. “We’re at a point now where there needs to be an approval to move forward with this project. It’s something that we would like to do.”

The board voted unanimously to proceed with the design phase.

Joe Booth, IRSD’s Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, noted that this involves two contracts. One is with Fearn & Clendaniel for the architectural work. The other is with Allen & Shariff for mechanical work.

This project would fall under the district’s minor cap funding umbrella.

For fiscal year 2019, Indian River district is receiving an additional $478,00 in minor cap funding, part of an additional $4.1 million statewide proposed by Governor John Carney.

This proposal comes as the district is mapping out certificates of necessity in hopes of a successful major capital referendum that would entail new school construction and renovation.

By an 8-0-1 vote May 21, the board of education opted for an option proposal recommended by IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele that calls for a new Sussex Central School and additions to Selbyville Middle School and Indian River High School.

This option would encompass converting current Sussex Central High School into a middle school for upward of 1,000 students – well below the building’s 1,500-student capacity – and utilizing the Millsboro Middle School building for elementary-level instruction.

Even with referendum passage, the project is several years down the road. Meanwhile, a majority of the district’s 19 schools are at or over capacity amid ongoing student enrollment growth.

“We’ve kind of looked at this and we have a choice to make,” said Mr. Steele. “We have a choice at Millsboro. We have a very limited amount of space. Our suggestion was we need to look at this. If we’re not going to go this way, we are going to have to probably take a look at portables. And then we are going to have the issue of where are we going to put them.”

Mr. Fritz alerted board members of other substantial minor cap projects that loom over the horizon.

“Really, right now I see three big projects. One, being this. The other two next year being tracks at both high schools. They both are going to be somewhere in the six-figure range as well,” said Mr. Fritz. “All three of those are going to come out of minor cap. We are getting an increase in minor cap.”

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

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