Renovations enhance educational environment at Sussex Academy


9 SUSSEX ACADEMY ribbon is cut

In the school’s new “cafetorium,” U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper cuts the ribbon marking Sussex Academy’s celebration of the near completion of major capital renovation projects supported by USDA Rural Development loan funding.

GEORGETOWN – School was back in session for the 2015-16 year earlier this week for students at Sussex Academy.

This year, Sussex Academy’s approximate 600 students in grades six through 11th have some noticeable amenities.

With United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development, local, county and state government and Georgetown Chamber of Commerce officials on hand, a ceremonial snip of the ribbon by U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper Thursday spotlighted major renovation: a new library, warming kitchen, chemistry lab, performing arts stage and a combined cafeteria/auditorium coined a “cafetorium.”

“The purpose of today is to celebrate the completion, or near completion of major capital projects here at Sussex Academy, and in particular USDA’s participation in this project and overview of USDA’s support of Sussex County’s only charter school,” said Sussex Academy Director Dr. Patricia Oliphant.

The 4,000 square foot library is adjacent to the cafetorium as is the warming kitchen where pre-made, frozen meals – purchased a month in advance – are prepared.

The performing arts stage consumes a good portion of one end of the cafetorium area and according to Sussex Academy Community/Communications Manager Gina Derrickson it is the largest indoor stage in Sussex County.

The project makes use of what had been an empty shell in the building when it was purchased in the 2013 school swap with Delmarva Christian High School.

“It was unfinished,” said Dr. Oliphant.

9 Sussex Academy spanish carper mcgowan

Students in Spanish class at Sussex Academy listen in as U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper speaks with Bill McGowan and Kathy Beisner of USDA Rural Development.

USDA Rural Development’s investment in the renovation projects is $2.5 million through a federal loan facilitated with USDA’s partner NCALL – the National Council on Agricultural Life and Labor.

USDA’s total support for Sussex Academy is over $10 million, with $1.6 million for the 2000 construction of the Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences building (now Delmarva Christian High School) and $6.2 million in the school-swap purchase, according to Kathy Beisner, Assistant to USDA’s State Director.

Sen. Carper said people associate USDA with research, raising better crops, produce and animals. “But it’s also involved in education,” Sen. Carper said.

‘Folks think of us as the food and fiber system but we’re much, much more,” said USDA Rural Development State Director Bill McGowan, who serves Delaware and Maryland. “Sussex Academy of Arts and Sciences is the first charter school that we supported through our Community Facilities Program in Delaware.”

Since then USDA was supported two others, in Kent and New Castle counties.

With anticipate enrollment growth, future plans include expansion with 15 additional classrooms, a small multipurpose and three conference rooms, Dr. Oliphant said.

Sussex Academy’s graduating class of 2017 totals 41 juniors. Enrollment is 10th grade is 72, with 105 freshmen and 130 in middle school grades six through eight.

“We feel now that we have met the mark of people thinking that we are going to be a real high school. We want around 110 kids per grade. That’s what we had planned on. So with 105 coming this year we feel really good about that,” said Dr. Oliphant. “We have not at this point had to hold a lottery in the ninth grade. In the sixth grade we have to hold a lottery.”

The cafetorium will feature about 240 pullout theater-type seats, similar to gymnasium bleachers. Another 400 chair seats can be utilized for lunch or other events.

And thanks to a generous donation from Schell Brothers, early next year there will be a new 8-lane, state-of-the-art pool earmarked for school and community use.

“It was a donation,” said Dr. Oliphant. “We think it will be done sometime in January. We plan to utilize it for the community. We haven’t quite figured out how we will set that up yet, whether it will be membership … but we plan to open it up to the community. It is their (Schell Brothers) gift to us to use to benefit the community as well as this school.”

Sen. Carper, whose school tour included brief stops in several classrooms, reminded students that success in the employment world stems from education through STEM.

“Eighty percent of the jobs created in this country in the next 10 years … will rely at least in part on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM),” Sen. Carper said. “Keep in mind that is where the jobs are going to be.”

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