October 24, 2001

We may know by Christmas ...

... Then again we may not.

The state Board of Education is now in the process of scheduling two special meetings to consider the Neighborhood Schools Act plans submitted to them by the four northern New Castle County districts.

They will occur some time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to policy analyst Ann Case.

She said the meetings will be open to the public. They presumably will be held in Dover.

"I cannot tell you specifically what will occur after the presentations or give you a specific time line (timetable) right now.  A lot depends on what comes to us," she said.

The plans are due to be submitted to the board by Nov. 15. The law calls for the districts to receive a one-time appropriation of $1,125,000 apiece and to implement the plans 18 months after that. That would seem to put the earliest implementation with the opening of the academic year in September, 2003.

The law provides that if the plan is not acceptable, the districts have 60 days after they are officially notified of the rejection to come up with another plan. If that is not done, the matter is to be referred to the attorney general who is to seek compliance through court action. The law is not clear on whether that course would be followed if the second plan also is rejected.

Whether the General Assembly will intervene in the process or not remains to be seen. Political observers currently believe intervention is unlikely, but that could change, they say, if one or more districts can convince enough law makers that changes in the law should be made or in response to state Board of Education rejection of one or more of the plans. The Assembly will reconvene in regular session in early January.

The Red Clay school board already has approved that district's plan. The Colonial district has said that it considers the student-assignment plan it has been following for the past couple of years to be in compliance with the Neighborhood Schools Act. The Brandywine and Christiana districts' plans are still pending.

2001. All rights reserved.

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