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Appoquinimink is asking the state to fund Redding Middle School renovations, again

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

Three times the Appoquinimink School District has asked the Department of Education to provide funding for the renovation of the 68-year-old Louis L. Redding Middle School. The district has consistently prioritized the renovations when asking for state funding on construction projects but has been denied every time.

Appoquinimink plans to request funding again.

At the Appoquinimink Board of Education meeting Oct. 13, the board approved a certificate of necessity application that will be sent to the state for approval to fund a $56 million project at the historic Redding Middle School in Middletown.

A certificate of necessity is a document issued by the Department of Education that certifies that a construction project is needed and sets the scope and cost limits for that project, according to the department's website. If approved, the certificate authorizes the local school district to hold a referendum for the project.

Based on the plan approved by the board, the school would expand capacity from 796 students to 1,000, preserve the auditorium and the historical facade in the entrance lobby, improve infrastructure and provide a 21st-century learning environment. The project would involve tearing down parts of the structure and rebuilding them.

During the meeting, Superintendent Matt Burrows said they considered making just renovations to the building, but the state would not approve it because costs would be too high compared with the cost of a new building.

Burrows said he was unaware if there was a specific formula to how the state determines when renovations are too costly, but the price difference between renovations of Redding Middle School and rebuilding it would have been $2 million.

Redding was built in 1952, and board President Richard Forsten said the building has lived past its life expectancy.

“You just can't have a school in my view where kids are afraid to flush toilets because it might come back up. That’s just not right,” he said, referring to the building’s recurring plumbing issues. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why DOE has not authorized this.”

The state has declined to contribute toward renovations at Redding Middle School three times, Forsten said.

Board member Kelly Wright said when the district requests funding for construction, they have to rank projects in order of necessity, and Redding is always toward the top of the list.

“It’s almost like DOE cherry-picked the things that they were going to fund us for. We are very thankful that they funded the projects we did get, but this project has been requested three times. It’s not only what the building needs but what the students who go there need,” she said.

When the board approved the 2019 referendum last year, board members Michelle Wall and Charlisa Edelin were not happy about voting for the referendum without including Redding Middle renovations but felt it was important to pass it for the teachers’ salary increases.