IR has three options, including a new school
Could a new school be on the horizon for the Indian River School District?
The IRSD Board of Education considered new schools among various plans to address population growth in the northern part of the district — particularly in Georgetown — at their regular meeting June 19.
Debate over the topic of full-day kindergarten has continued in the district, with the IRSD the only district in Delaware to not offer the state-mandated option, with the board citing other major projects. But the kindergarten debate has evolved into a close study of school sizes that yielded a new idea at the Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting June 11, when Assistant Superintendent Gary Brittingham suggested a new school.
The board has already recognized that the district is growing, in addition to the space that might be needed for more kindergarten classes. While the district graduated around 550 students this year, recent kindergarten classes have numbered in the upper 700s district and sometimes hit 800. That large bubble of students will need to squeeze into middle and high schools in the next decade. In five or six years, all the middle schools will be packed, at around 700 to 800 students each, based on current enrollment.
“If we’re going to move forward with a referendum, we’ve got to make a decision now. The data is there for us to build a new school with or without the full-day kindergarten,” said Board Member Rodney Layfield, who said he wants to be proactive in planning for IRSD’s future growth.
To begin a major capital project in the coming fiscal year, the IRSD must submit a Certificate of Necessity to the State by July 1. They may submit multiple ideas, but they cannot add anything after July 1, so the school board voted unanimously to submit three options: build 32 new classrooms at existing schools, at a cost of $10 million; build a new elementary school, plus other renovations, for $20 million; or build a new middle school, plus renovations, at $25 million.
Any new school would be located on the southern end of the Sussex Central High School property near Millsboro. An elementary school would pull students from areas served by North Georgetown, East Millsboro, Long Neck and Georgetown elementary schools. A middle school could possibly even pull fifth-grade students from the existing elementary schools, allowing for extra kindergarten space in the elementary schools.
All options would likely include two new classrooms for Selbyville Middle School.
Board Member Patricia Oliphant complimented the three options but encouraged the board to get teacher feedback regarding moving grades to different buildings.
The State will approve or deny the Certificates of Necessity, and the board will have until fall to officially choose one option.
Residents may vote on whether to approve the final proposal at referendum in 2013, and the board will also revisit the full-day kindergarten discussion.
Layfield encouraged board members and administrators to attend the next public Buildings and Grounds meeting, on Monday, July 9, at 6 p.m. at the Indian River Educational Complex in Selbyville.
Indian mascot raises concerns, questions
District parent Lloyd Elling addressed the board this week, proposing a mascot change for the Indian River School District.
“The Indian is the only race we portray as a mascot,” and it promotes racism and historical inaccuracy, Elling said. He suggested that the district use a dolphin or other representation of the “water world” of the Delmarva Peninsula.
Elling recommended either changing mascots or actuating the Indian. He questioned how much education IR students receive on American Indian tribes, including the local Nanticoke and Lenape tribes.
“I would like for it to stop being pretend, for it to become actualized, or to let it go,” Elling told the Coastal Point. “What bothered me is there’s no depth of connection to supporting actuality. It appears to be very pretend. … People running around with Indian feathers and whooping. … I’m blaming the system that does not have it as authentic as it possibly can be.”
Elling acknowledged that the idea does not appear to be very popular at this time, but he said he feels it’s a moral issue. He said local chiefs are not particularly bothered by the mascot, but are with “Redskin”-type names. He also noted that Indian River High School principal Mark Steele had once said that an American Indian father with several daughters at IR was not concerned about the mascot.
The district, Indian River High School, Selbyville Middle School and three elementary schools use the Indian mascot, while northern schools that feed into Sussex Central High School use the golden knight as their mascots.
In Other Indian River School District news:
• The board recognized outgoing school board members Randall Hughes, Robert Wilson and Shelly Wilson. Hughes, who served as vice president and now joins the Delaware Board of Education, thanked the IR board and school administrators, saying he has grown in their six-plus years of working together. Robert Wilson echoed those sentiments, saying the board was almost like a family, and he was proud of the votes he cast and district hires he made.
• The board thanked board member Charles Bireley for his service as president, and Bunting noted the many hours he dedicates to IRSD on a daily basis.
• Cliff Toomey was recognized as School Nutrition Supervisor of the Year; North Georgetown student Jalen Levenberry was recognized as Delaware’s winner for National Radon Action Month poster contest; and board members Bireley and Nina Lou Bunting received commendations from the Delaware School Boards Association.
The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 24, at 7 p.m. at Indian River High School. An organizational meeting will be held Monday, July 2, with its time and location to be determined.