Referendum to support Appoquinimink expansion passes

Residents in the Appoqunimink School District approved a referendum that will allow for several new schools to be built.(photo courtesy Appoquinimink School District)

Residents in the Appoqunimink School District approved a referendum that will allow for several new schools to be built.(photo courtesy Appoquinimink School District)

Delaware’s Appoquinimink School District will be able to construct new elementary, middle and high schools, and expand and renovate an elementary school and a middle school, now that a referendum to raise taxes for the projects has passed.

Voters in the district approved the $268.3 million capital referendum with about 67 percent of the total vote.

“We’re going to have three new schools and have space to put students in as we continue to grow, it’s going to offer more opportunities to our students,” said School Superintendent Matthew Burrows.

“With adding another high school there will be more opportunities for a new student body president, or athletic opportunities, more opportunities to get in pathways they may not be able to get into because the high school is so big.”

Appoquinimink said the funds will accommodate increasing enrollment—the student body has expanded by 3,082 pupils over the last decade, with 766 of those students enrolling in the past two years alone.

And the district is expecting enrollment to continue to increase, as motorists have better access to the area, and there’s continued home development.

The school district reports there are as many as 35 students to a class, and it has even added trailers to schools to accommodate the needs of their students.

“The modular classrooms are actually nice as far as a classroom space, but we have buildings where we couldn’t add a teacher if we needed to add a teacher, so we just add students at this point, and you can’t add a teacher to make a classroom smaller. With this passing, it will give us the opportunity to have a space to put these students into,” Burrows said.

“Also when you’re seeing what we have with the high school where teachers have to share classrooms, that impacts the teachers, because just with their planning time they’re in another area and they can’t necessarily set up for their next lesson because someone’s teaching at that time.”

The school district asked residents to vote on an operational referendum to improve technology, address staff recruitment and retention. The funds would also pay for the local share of operating expenses, such as staff, transportation and textbooks, needed for enrollment growth. A second ballot represented a capital request for more than $67 million to put toward the funding of the construction of three new schools, and the expansion and renovation of two existing buildings. The remaining costs for the $201 million project will be paid for by the State.

District residents will receive a tax increase of 23.54 cents per $100 assessed for taxes. Homes are assessed for taxes at around one third of their market value. For example, a house marketed at $150,000 is expected to pay $9.12 a month while a house with a market value of $450,000 is expected to pay $27.36 a month.

The first ballot passed with a 5,152 to 2,496 vote, while the second ballot passed with a 5,506 to 2,102 vote.

The design phase of the project will begin immediately, and a volunteer parent-board-staff committee will be formed at the end of the winter season to begin formulating a recommendation for revising feeder patterns when the new schools open.

The new 840-student elementary school will be built in Whitehall, while the new high and middle schools will be built on land the district already owns at its Fairview Campus.

The Fairview Campus is home to the Spring Middle Early Childhood Center kindergarten school and the Old State Elementary School. When the new schools are added students will be able to study on the same campus throughout their grade school experience.

The high and middle schools will share a performing arts center, a kitchen and possibly a library and nurse’s suite. The schools will be the district’s third multi-grade campus, but the first in the state of Delaware with a full K-12 location.

Its 88-year-old Everett Meredith Middle will receive a new roof, windows, HVAC, electrical work and new security. Meanwhile, Silver Lake Elementary will be expanded to accommodate its increasing student body.

Burrows said the projects will not only benefit the students, but also the community in general.

“Our schools are not just schools, there are also community buildings being used almost all the time, after school and on weekends, so there’s more facilities for the community to use,” he said. “It’s going to give more sports fields for our community sports teams, it’s going to be more facilities for people to use outside school time, along with during school time.”

Completion of the new elementary school is expected in 2019, and the new middle and high schools by 2020. Students from the two existing schools, Silver Lake Elementary and Everett Meredith Middle, will relocate to the new middle and high schools until the renovation and expansion at their own buildings is complete.

Burrows said the community will be able to see where the funding is being used, and the school will continue to update the public on the projects.

“We appreciate the community support and the faith they showed in us,” Burrows said. “It speaks volumes they like what we’re doing and appreciate what we’re doing.”

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