Last updated: September 06. 2013 8:11PM - 136 Views

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[caption width="250" caption=" Fourth grade students at Carlisle Elementary take their courses inside one of the three modular units the school has installed in response to increased enrollment. With projected enrollment rates continuing to rise, the district is looking for alternative ways to accommodate the growing student population. (GAZETTE | Devon Immelt) "][/caption]


Staff Writer

The Delaware City School district is considering enlarging and renovating seven buildings in response to the increasing enrollment.

Director of facilities and transportation Larry Davis has presented a plan — still pending the board’s approval — to spare the district from having to spend the $60 to $70 million necessary to build a new high school from scratch.

The plan entails transforming the Willis Intermediate building from an intermediate school to primarily an administrative and support services building. The fifth grade students who would have attended the intermediate school would move back to the five local elementary schools, while the sixth-grade students would move to the middle school, according to the project description.

To accommodate these additional students, the proposal suggests constructing additions and renovations for all five elementary schools, the middle school and the high school and transportation center.

Enrollment has increased such that Willis can no longer house the two grade levels, and the limited property does not allow for building additions, district spokesperson Jennifer Ruhe said.

The district would prefer to avoid housing only one grade at the intermediate school, so as to reduce the number of school transitions for students in the district, Ruhe said. The building would remain in operation, potentially as a place for alternative education or community services in addition to the proposed administrative offices.

The plan now awaits critique by a professional architectural firm, which will be able to reveal cost estimates associated with the buildings’ additions and renovations.

“This is a step in getting the facts,” Davis said.

Applications will be accepted until Nov. 1 and Ruhe said the board plans to devote the Nov. 19 work session to the facilities issue. A final candidate is expected to be selected by Dec. 31.

As outlined by the project plan, the construction would take place between 2013 and 2017.

The current plan comes three years after the facilities department was considering three options for addressing increasing enrollment, which included building a new high school. This costly idea was rejected by the board, Ruhe said.

With some buildings already over capacity, Davis said that money will have to be spent in one form or another.

The district reports that five of its eight buildings are currently over capacity. In this district with a combined capacity of 5,383 students, an additional 157 students are enrolled.

In the next three years, the current enrollment of 5,540 students is projected to rise to 5,742 students.

“Physically in the buildings, we are running out of space for the students to be at,” Davis said.

He said the quickest way to accommodate rising enrollment numbers is to purchase or lease modular classrooms — of which the district already uses seven — but with property space running out and parking space already limited, even this solution is coming close to being exhausted.

The district has been using trailers to accommodate student overflow for at least the past decade, Davis said.

At Carlisle Elementary, the fourth grade is taught inside three trailers, he said. Woodward Elementary also has three trailers, which hosts three classrooms, and Smith Elementary has one trailer with two classrooms.

Willis Intermediate has 157 more students than its capacity of 729 students, and Hayes High School has 136 more students than its capacity of 1,366 students, according to district documents.

Carlisle’s 491 student capacity is already exceeded by 56 students; Dempsey’s 816 student capacity is exceeded by 35 students and Schultz’s 532 student capacity is exceeded by six students.

Davis said the district will welcome alternative solutions suggested by the selected architectural firm, yet the main goal is to avoid building an entirely new building on a new site.

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