City school district kicks off bond issue campaign
“But what difference will it make to education?”
The question was posed to Delaware City Schools Superintendent Paul Craft at the district’s bond campaign kick off event Thursday night at Willis Intermediate School.
About 80 people filed into the auditorium to hear Craft, treasurer Melissa Lee, and campaign leaders explain why the district’s need for the 3.6-mill bond issue – expected to generate $50 million – is so dire.
The measure would cost homeowners about $60 per $100,000 of residential valuation every year for 37 years.
Craft’s response to the question of educational benefit revolved around a problem made evident by the collection of mobile classroom trailers parked outside three of the elementary schools.
“As of right now, we can’t physically fit our kids into the building,” Craft said.
Many classrooms have up to 30 students. Many spaces used as classrooms were once intended to be teachers’ lounges or even, according to board vice president Harry Pape, broom closets. Overcrowded classrooms translate to less time a teacher can spend with any individual student, and hosting classes in alternative spaces – such as the outdoor trailers – can lend to a feeling of isolation.
These problems stand to get worse, Craft said.
He said five of the eight school buildings are over capacity, with more projected to exceed their limits in upcoming years. The graduating class of 2012 had 305 students, which is 175 fewer students than the current fifth grade class, Craft said.
While larger classes eventually edge closer to clogging Hayes High School, the district also is seeing a continual rise in number of families moving into the district, Craft said.
Adding wings to every school building except for Willis would alleviate the overcrowding problems. Carlisle, Smith and Woodward elementary schools no longer would need to conduct classes in trailers, and schools hosting gym class in the cafeteria would receive an actual gymnasium.
Hayes could grow by 20 to 26 classrooms, as well as Dempsey Middle School. Every elementary school also would see a growth of several classrooms: 13 projected at Carlisle, 12 at Schultz, 10 at Woodward, seven at Conger and six at Smith.
All the elementary schools would be able to accommodate all-day kindergarten – another educational benefit of the bond funds, Craft said.
The bond revenue also would address current safety hazards, Craft said during a slide show presentation.
More parking space would be added to all buildings except Willis, and many buildings’ traffic routes would be reconfigured.
Woodward could receive an entirely new traffic loop off of South Liberty Street street, which would relieve congestion during school pickup and drop-off hours. A Willow Run Lane extension would be constructed at Schultz.
All buildings would be renovated to meet the current industry security standards.
At Conger, for example, a new entryway at Winter Street would create an area where visitors would be checked in by front desk staff before being allowed into the inner classrooms.
If the bond passes, the construction would begin in 2013 and potentially finish by or before the 2016–17 school year.
Ultimately, the bond would return the district to a traditional grade alignment: kindergarten through fifth grades at the elementary schools, sixth through eighth grade at the middle school, and grades nine to 12 at the high school.
Willis would primarily become an administrative building, while hosting some virtual learning classrooms and providing space for community organizations.
Still unknown is when the grade levels would transition from one school to another.
This timeline would not be determined until after a bond passage, district spokesperson Jen Ruhe said, yet it is unlikely that such changes would happen before 2015.
Other questions may remain unanswered until the bond passes, yet Thursday’s event marked the first time conceptual maps were presented to the public.
The bond discussion will continue during a series of “Town Hall” meetings leading up to the May 7 election.
Those dates include:
• April 2: Conger Elementary, 10 Channing Street, at 6:30 p.m.
• April 3: Woodward Elementary, 200 S. Washington Street, at 6:30 p.m.
• April 9: Carlisle Elementary, 746 State Route 37 West, at 6 p.m.
•April 10 : Smith Elementary, 355 N. Liberty St., at 6:30 p.m.
• April 11: Schultz Elementary, 499 Applegate Lane, at 6:30 p.m.
• April 17: Hayes High School, 289 Euclid Ave., at 6:30 p.m.