Gov. Carney proposes building first new public school in Wilmington in decades

Gov. Carney has proposed replacing The Bancroft School with a new one for first through eighth graders. (Christina School District)

Gov. Carney has proposed replacing The Bancroft School with a new one for first through eighth graders. (Christina School District)

It’s been decades since a new traditional public school was built in Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware. But if Gov. John Carney has his way, the state will allocate $50 million to construct a new one on the city’s impoverished East Side and renovate two others.

Wednesday, during a news conference, Carney said that the capital budget he will unveil next week contains a plan to replace the Bancroft School, for first through eighth graders, with a new one on nearby land now owned by the Christina School District.

The plan, which must be approved by the General Assembly when it votes on the budget in late June, also includes extensive renovations to The Bayard School, for grades one through eight, as well as the Stubbs Dual Generation Center that has a pre-school, kindergarten, and vocational and other services for adults.

“This is a big deal,’’ Carney gushed from the podium, where he was flanked by state lawmakers, Mayor Mike Purzycki, Christina officials and other advocates for city schools.

Carney said it’s not worth the cost to renovate Bancroft, which was built early in the 20th century.

”It’s really bad,’’ the governor said. “It would cost almost $50 million just to rehab it.”

Carney said Bancroft would “probably” be demolished once the new school was constructed. He could not give a timetable on when the new building would open.

The announcement was welcomed by the principals at both Bancroft and Bayard, which was built in the 1970s.

Bancroft’s first-year principal, Krystal Greenfield, said she didn’t know anything about the proposal, only that she was invited to Wednesday’s news conference to hear a “special” announcement.

“I’m really excited about the plan for our students,’’ she said. “Our students deserve the best. This looks like a step in the right direction. We need new facilities that can be state-of-the-art and offer state-of-the-art education.”

Bancroft principal Krystal Greenfield says her students and staff “need new facilities that can be state of the art and offer state of the art education.” (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Bayard Principal Victoir Cahoon added that he and his staff are “excited for an opportunity for our kids to have much more up-to-date resources, much more up-to-date facilities and those things they really deserve that other schools have.”

State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha of Wilmington said it’s about time Wilmington gets a new school.

“I can name schools that have mold. Sadly, I can name schools that have mildew and mice, and children and teachers who miss a lofty amount of days due to health issues and respiratory problems. That’s where we are in the city of Wilmington.”

Elsewhere in Delaware, though, several of the 19 districts have built “some beautiful schools,” said Chukwuocha. “I visited one school that has heated floors for kindergartners. I’m not making this up!”

Carney’s proposal is his latest for Wilmington, which is split up into four districts which include suburban areas. His main focus has been the Christina School District. This year Christina’s Bancroft and Bayard expanded, and Stubbs closed as an elementary school to serve younger children and adults.

The state has spent $20 million toward that conversion, but Carney and others said much more is needed for many city schools where academic proficiency is low. At Bayard, for example, only 4% of students meet state standards in mathematics and 13% in English.

Purzycki lauded fellow Democrat Carney for prioritizing the education of Wilmington’s children.

“If we don’t get our arms around educating our kids … how we support these kids and their families, then nothing else that we do matters,” Purzycki said.

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