Department of Education awards certificates of necessity

The Delaware Department of Education has awarded this year’s certificates of necessity, the first step for schools trying to obtain funding for major capital improvements.

According to Alison May, public information officer at the Department of Education, 10 districts submitted for certificates. Only Capital School District, in Dover, received everything requested, because its only request was for a state-funded specialty school.

Four districts didn’t receive approval for anything they asked for: Brandywine, Milford, Sussex Tech and New Castle County Vo-Tech.

The department used district enrollment growth to prioritize projects, which meant Appoquinimink and Indian River School Districts topped their list. Appoquinimink has grown by about 1,500 students since 2015, Indian River School District by about 1,000. Enrollment growth is expected to continue in both.

Appoquinimink

Appoquinimink was awarded certificates for land for a K-12 campus and a new elementary school and kindergarten center.

The district received certificates, but not state money, for a new roof and heating and air conditioning system at Middletown High School, as well as for the replacement of four turf fields. Those projects will be paid for entirely with local funds, should they get local votes.

Appoquinimink has scheduled a referendum for Dec. 17. The district will ask for about $13.9 million in local funding for the land, elementary school and kindergarten center, plus about $16.8 million for Middletown High School and turf field improvements.

Indian River

Indian River was awarded a certificate for a new Sussex Central High School, with plans to convert the current high school to a middle school and Millsboro Middle into an elementary school.

The district's third try at a referendum over the past two years is scheduled for February 13. Indian River has reduced their request each time, this time foregoing additions to Indian River High School and Selbyville Middle School. A new Sussex Central is expected to cost $146 million, with $58.4 paid for by district property taxes.

State-funded schools

Two projects were awarded certificates of necessity with 100 percent state funding: a new Howard T. Ennis School in the Indian River School District and, in Capital School District, converting William Henry Middle School into a countywide specialty school.

The Ennis School, on Ennis Road in Georgetown, provides services to about 135 Indian River students with significant disabilities. Prior to 1972, the building was part of the Delaware Technical and Community College campus. Del Tech still owns the land, and has not yet decided how it will be used after the new school is built.

The new Ennis will be on Patriots Way, by Sussex Central High School in Millsboro. Construction is expected to begin in 2020.

Capital School District is building two new, interconnected middle schools on the old Dover High School site. Funding was assured with the passage of a referendum in April.

Transferring students to the new middle schools will free up William Henry Middle School, on the same Carver Road campus as Kent County Community School. It serves students with a wide variety of disabilities, including the Delaware Autism Program, and will expand into the William Henry building.

The Kent County Secondary Intensive Learning Center, for students with a history of behavioral problems, is currently on leased property. It will move to the William Henry building.

Renovation projects

According to May, the department was unable to accommodate other large requests due to budget constraints. They were, however, able to award certificates for several acutely-needed renovations. Those include:

 New roof at Central Elementary School, Seaford.  New roof and mechanical system at North Smyrna Elementary School.  New mechanical and electrical systems at Christina Early Childhood Center.  New heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Marshall and Leasure elementary schools, Christina.