School referendum May 18 Voters will decide fate of construction and renovation proposals

By Lynn R. Parks

Voters in the Seaford School District will go to the polls Wednesday in a referendum on the district's plan to renovate Seaford High School.

Cost of the renovation project is $36.5 million. The state has agreed to pay 75 percent of that, or $27 million, leaving about $9.1 million to be paid by local taxpayers.

School taxes are paid based on county tax assessments and the average assessed property value in the district is $17,037. If citizens approve the project, the average taxpayer in the school district would see their tax bills increase an average of 29.9 cents per $100 of assessed property value, or $49 a year, over the 23-year life of the bond.

The increase would be highest, averaging 31 cents per $100 of assessed value or $53 a year, in the first five years of the bond. Tax rates would start declining in the third year of the bond.

The construction project would add about 66,000 square feet to the existing high school building to accommodate "academies" that the school is setting up in an effort to boost students' state test scores.

The largest part of the construction would be a 50,000-square foot wing on the front of the high school for the Delaware New Tech Academy, a project-based learning curriculum that is set to start next year. Instruction in Delaware New Tech will rely heavily on technology. At the start of each unit of study, students will be assigned projects that are based on real-world situations. The lessons that they learn in the unit will help them to complete their projects.

A second, 11,400-square foot addition off the high school chorus room would accommodate the school's planned culinary arts program.

And a third addition, 4,600 square feet and on the south side of the building, would be for its planned agriculture program.

The project is also designed to help alleviate overcrowding in the district's four elementary schools. It would include renovation of the high school to accommodate the district's eighth grade, which will move from the middle school to the high school. Fifth grades that are now in the elementary schools will be moved to the middle school.

Also included in the over $36.5 million is the cost of replacing the bleachers in the high school football stadium. Chief of buildings and grounds Roy Whitaker has said that the district has been advised by its insurance company that the bleachers, which are 50-years-old, should be replaced.

Seaford is the third district in western Sussex County to ask voters to approve a tax hike in the last year. In Laurel, citizens voted 1,444 to 1,241 against a $137 million building project last March, and then in October narrowly approved a revamped $117 million project. And in March, voters in the Woodbridge School District approved a plan to build a new $52 million high school. The vote was 964 for the project and 653 against.

For your information A referendum on the Seaford School District plan to renovate Seaford High School will be Wednesday, May 18. Voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the school board meeting room in the administrative building at 390 N. Market St., across from the high school. Residents of the district who are 18 or older are eligible to vote. For details, call the district office, 629-4587.

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