Carson asks for facilities review

By Lynn R. Parks

Acting superintendent Kevin Carson is recommending to the Seaford School Board that it establish a planning committee to look at how the districts facilities are used. Part of the work of the committee would be to look at what grades are housed in what schools.

This would be a continuation of the discussion that started in January 2011, when the board voted to ask citizens to support a referendum to add onto Seaford High School. In conjunction with that vote, the board also agreed to move eighth graders from the middle school into the expanded high school and fifth graders from the four elementary schools into the middle school, to alleviate overcrowding on the elementary level.

The referendum passed. But those moves were never made.

Prior to a February referendum, this one on a proposed hike in current expense taxes, board member Frank Parks said that he could not support the tax hike because the district had not followed through on its plans to move grades. Parks, the only board member who was on the board in January 2011, argued that renovations at the high school were far enough along that the district could start making plans to move grades five and eight at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

The board voted in December not to move grades in the next school year, saying that renovations were ongoing and that the 2011 board vote had left too much undecided about such a move. At that time, board president Mike Smith said that the board would take up the issue again in April.

The February referendum was soundly defeated, by more than a 3 to 1 margin.

At Monday nights school board meeting, Carson recommended that the district establish the committee, which would report to him. The committee would be charged with coming up with a facilities use plan by December.

If we are going to have implementation in September 2015, we have to get enough lead time in order to get solutions in place, Carson said.

That plan, which would become part of the districts strategic plan, would take into account a recent University of Delaware report that said that by the year 2020, the district will have 1,000 more students than it can accommodate, nearly half of whom will be in elementary grades.

Carson said that the district also has to reexamine its feeder pattern, or how it divides students up among its four elementary schools.

In addition, the district has to look at its policy for allowing students to choice into the district from other districts, and to choice from an assigned elementary school into another one. Its current policy, he said, has led to overcrowding at the elementary schools, in particular at Blades Elementary, which is 100 students over capacity.

We have allowed this to occur, Carson said. We have to come to terms with our choice decisions. Its a major issue, and its something that we have to look at.

Parks asked Carson if it was possible for the committee to be required to have its report completed earlier, perhaps in September or October. The district should provide as much notice as possible if changes are going to be made, he said.

Carson agreed that getting the report finished earlier would be a worthy goal. But he added that the report will require valid input and substantial community discussion. He stuck to the deadline of December, with the provision that if the committee can get finished earlier, it should do so.

Plans for the formation of the committee will be voted on by the board at its May 12 meeting.

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