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Indian River School District preps for another capital referendum

Delaware Public Media

As enrollment grows in the Indian River School District, residents will be asked to raise taxes to help fund a new Sussex Central High School.



The district has scheduled a major capital improvement referendum on Thursday February 13, 2020, and if passed, it would result in a maximum possible tax increase of over 63 dollars for the average district property owner. The increase would be phased in over a three-year period.

If its fails, the district could increase the number of portable classrooms.

Superintendent Mark Steele says another option would be to redraw school boundaries.

“We're going to have to look at school boundaries and we will simply have to do some maneuvering to bring some of the students in the north end of the district into the south," said Steele. "When we do that I think we're going to have some parents that are going to be upset some kids will be changing schools and different areas."

Steele adds another problem with redrawing boundaries is that it won’t completely help with enrollment issues.

"What you're going to be doing is taking your southern schools and you're going to be putting them near 100% capacities when you still have some of your northern schools that are near that as well so even though we redistribute it with how many students we have over in the north we're still going to have a full district."

Steele argues passing the referendum is what would be best for the district’s future.

“It is just a whole heck of a lot easier in my mind to just go out and pass the referendum,: said Steele. "That is the best viable option we have, and in the long run the cheapest, and if we can get that through and passed, I think we’re to be in good shape.”

If it does pass, the district will be able to build a new Sussex Central High School, while the current facility will become Millsboro Middle School, and the current middle school would be converted into an additional elementary school.

The new Sussex Central High School will have a capacity of 2,200 students. The new building will be approximately 309,799 square feet, and it will be built on district-owned property next to the existing high school north of Millsboro.

“If this referendum is not successful, the State of Delaware is unlikely to approve any major capital improvement projects in our district for several years,” said Steele. “This will delay the construction process indefinitely. Meanwhile, overcrowding will worsen and the educational environment in our schools will be adversely affected. We will also have to purchase more outdoor portable classrooms, which are costly and present safety concerns."

Residents rejected two capital referendum tries last year that would have paid for a new Sussex Central High School and classroom additions at Indian River High School and Selbyville Middle School. This referendum only seeks a new high school.

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