School capacity questions unresolved

The February 5 Indian River School District referendum failed by roughly 600 votes on both a bond issue approval and an increase in tax to cover current expenses.

For the bond issue, there were 3205 votes for and 3866 against. The bond would have funded three construction projects, including a new, $56 million Sussex Central High School, eight new classrooms at Indian River High School and four new classrooms at Selbyville Middle School.

For the tax to fund current expenses, there were 3128 votes for and 3836 votes against. The current expenses tax would have funded the operating expenses of two new schools.

A growing student population means the IRSD needs more space. There are 10,697 students are enrolled in the district, up 1,826 since 2011. District officials say enrollment is expected to reach 12,473 by 2024.

"Capacity is a major issue," said Superintendent Mark Steele. "We're going to have to tackle it somewhere down the line."

Steele said he, his staff and the Board of Education would be looking at alternative solutions in the coming weeks.

"This does not, and I repeat, does not, hinder the education our students will be getting. They will continue to get a quality education in the Indian River School District," he said. "It will be a little bit tougher. It's going to be hard on the students where we have overcrowding, but it's something we'll overcome, and we'll continue to push, just like we always have in the past."