The Appoquinimink School District will ask residents for a property-tax increase Tuesday, Dec. 20 to fund the construction of three new schools, along with the renovation and expansion of two other schools, to accommodate the growing number of students in the district.
The plans include a new high school and a new middle school on the district’s Fairview Campus between Odessa and Townsend, and a new 840-student elementary school on property in the Town of White Hall development.
The Fairview Campus has two existing schools: a kindergarten center and an elementary school.
According to Superintendent Matt Burrows, there were plans to build the new high school and middle school back in 2012, but due to the slowing growth rate, the district did not have a need for the schools at that time, and therefore could not request them.
“Initially, we had a 10-year plan, from 2006 to 2016, that went along with the growth we saw during that time,” Burrows explained. “Then in 2009, we hit the recession and the growth started to slow and we grew into the two schools we built in 2012. In that plan, we wanted to build a middle and high school, but when the growth slowed, we couldn’t go for those.”
“That’s the funny thing about the state,” said Lilian Miles, Public Information Officer for Appoquinimink School District. “You have to already be over capacity to ask for a referendum.”
Nearly 800 new students in two years
According to the district’s referendum presentation, the district has grown by nearly 800 students in the past two years, and more growth is expected to come.
In addition to the need for more classrooms, the growth has also put a strain on the district’s ability to provide computers as needed for students.
“The reason for that is because we have labs, but not mobile devices,” Burrows said. “We also have a few desktops (computers) in classrooms, but it isn’t enough.”
If the referendum passes, the new high school and middle school on the Fairview Campus would make it the first K-12 campus in Delaware.
“We haven’t had any negative feedback on the fact that it will be a K-12 campus,” Miles said. “Parents love the idea that their kids will be on the same campus….It’s also environmentally responsible. Instead of having three access roads, three sewer systems, and separate parking, we will only have one footprint for all of that.”
Two separate votes
The referendum ballot will have two separate items on which to vote.
One will be for the capital improvements, which includes the construction costs of the new schools. The state will fund 75 percent of the costs with the remaining 25 percent being funded by district property taxes with a 20-year bond.
The second item will be operational expenses, which includes staff recruitment and retention, technology, and costs such as books, desks, and buses.
The district will be asking for a total of 23.54 cents for every $100 dollars of assessed property value. For example, the owner of a home with a $150,000 market value assessed at $46,500 by New Castle County would pay an additional $9.12 a month or $109.44 per year if the referendum passes.
Without this referendum, district officials said the schools will continue to face overcrowded conditions, causing a strain on teachers and students in the classrooms. Modular classrooms have already been installed at both middle schools.
“It is important that we stay on top of the growth,” Miles said. “Parents appreciate that this is an excellent school system, and we keep it that way by staying on top of the growth that we have seen.”
A successful referendum will also help the schools provide the technological tools students need, Burrows said.
“We are in the 21st century of learning,” he said. “It is not like it was in the past; it’s no longer just between four walls. We need to keep up with that as a district if we are to keep moving forward on the cutting edge.”