New attendance zones OK'd for new schools, despite some opposition from residents

The Appoquinimink School District has scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony next week for the soon-to-be constructed building which will house both the Odessa High School and the Cantwell’s Bridge Middle School.

In a related development, the district’s school board on Jan. 9 approved attendance zones, called “feeders,” for the new schools.

When opened in the 2020-2021 school year, the $148 million high/middle school will be located on the Fairview Campus where Old State Elementary School is presently located near Odessa.

The additional building will make the Fairview Campus kindergarten through 12th grade, which district officials believe is unmatched anywhere in Delaware and even the nation.

Included in the new building will be a performing arts center, library media center, a teaching theater and student enterprise centers.

Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long is expected to attend the groundbreaking as well as state Rep. Earl Jaques, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, state Sen. Nicole Poore, and other government representatives.

The groundbreaking takes place at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 23 at 580 Tony Marchio Drive, Townsend, on the Fairview Campus. (Although the address has a Townsend zip code, it’s just south of Odessa.) The public is welcome to attend.

Besides the new high and middle school, the district is also planning a third school, Lorewood Grove Elementary, on Lorewood Grove Road north of Middletown.

All the schools were funded by a referendum approved by the voters a year ago. To pay for the new buildings, the school board approved a 13.8 percent property tax increase.

Besides obtaining funding, district officials had to re-draw the attendance zones for the schools, taking into account the new schools when completed.

On Jan. 9, the district school board by a vote of 4 to 1 approved new attendance zones, called “feeder patterns,” despite opposition from some Shannon Cove residents

Michelle Wall was the only board member to vote no. A committee of district officials had recommended the new feeder patterns.

After the vote, Wall said by email, “I am supportive of the feeder pattern changes and commend the work of the committee. I wanted there to be additional time to evaluate the implications of the Early Child decision that was suggested for Shannon Cove. However, I was not given a chance to present a second motion with this option because the first motion passed without my support.”

After the vote, Board President Richard Forsten praised the work of the committee who drafted the attendance zones. He called the feeder patterns “a Rubik’s Cube” where if a change is made to one community, it affects another.

The first graduating class of Odessa High will be in 2024, which Forsten said, speaks to the amount of long-range planning for the schools.

Parents in the district still have the “choice option” where they can have their children attend the school of their choice as long as that school’s enrollment isn’t at or over capacity.

Almost since the feeders were proposed, many residents of the Shannon Cove housing development have expressed concerns.

At the meeting, several Shannon Cove residents spoke before the board. At one point, about 15 people raised their hands when asked if anyone at the meeting was from Shannon Cove.

In general, the residents of the housing development wanted their children to attend Spring Meadow Early Childhood Center, Old State Elementary School, Cantwell’s Bridge Middle School, and Odessa High School, all of which are located on the Fairview Campus.

Instead, as approved by the board, those residents’ children will attend Cedar Lane Early Childhood Center, Cedar Lane Elementary, Redding Middle, and Middletown High schools.

Shannon Cove residents wanted their children to attend schools all on the same campus, which would be the Fairview Campus. Also, they said they were worried about the traffic around Middletown High, which their children must attend.

Also, the attendance zone for Shannon Cove was changed after the public hearings were over.

“The feeder pattern committee…changed the feeder for Shannon Cove [and] maybe a couple of other places also. I don’t feel they communicated that unless you came to the last board meeting,” said Chris Cumello of Shannon Cove.