no fluff in this. We're being fiscally responsible," chief
financial officer Richard Moretti told Delaforum
may be understandable that a superficial glance at the
district's $195.3 million capital program would tend to focus on
the proposal to build a 600-student elementary school in the
Hockessin-North Star area, Moretti pointed out that accounts for
less than 7% of the planned spending.
largest amounts will go for upgrading electrical and ventilation
systems and air conditioning the two-thirds of the interior
space not presently conducive to warm-weather activity, he said.
sufficient classroom space to several buildings to eliminate the
need for 15 modular units is another key element. Dating back to
1996, they provide seats for 588 youngsters in 27 classrooms.
That is the equivalent of another school.
security, handicapped accessibility and playground and athletic
facilities are yet other elements.
projects slated at all 24 school buildings, ranging in scope
from a half million dollars worth of work at the newest,
Brandywine Springs Elementary, to $23.6 million at the
Wilmington campus, which houses Charter School of Wilmington and
Cab Calloway School of the Arts.
said that a complete line-item listing of planned projects in
each building will soon be made available at both the affected
locations and on the district's Web site. The latter now
contains an overview of the plan which can be accessed through
the link at the bottom of this article.
voters actually will be asked to authorize borrowing $78.1
million through the sale of bonds over a six-year period,
starting in the fiscal year which begins July 1, to finance the
local 40% share of the total cost. The state is expected
to provide $117.2 million.
budget constraints as the result of a slumping economy forced
Red Clay to extend its planned program an additional year.
Although state officials have said there likely will not be
enough money in the next capital budget to finance existing
commitments for school construction, Moretti said the district
is counting on sufficient flexibility and General Assembly
support to enable it to start implementation of its plan in
authorization includes acceptance of a capital tax rate to cover
debt service -- payment of principle and interest -- during the
life of the 20-year obligations. The district estimates that
will average 8¢ for each $100 of assessed property value over
the entire period and reach a peak of 13.6¢ during the sixth
said the district decided to present a single comprehensive
proposal rather than break it into separate components
"because we didn't want to pit one community against
acknowledged that entailed some definite risk because both the
total package and the district financial obligations would be
all-time Delaware records and because Red Clay voters have twice
rejected comparable building plans. The most recent was last
April when $74 million local financing for a $185.2 million
program was turned down by a 53%-to-47% margin.
other hand, he said, Red Clay is asking approval for only part
of what could be called reasonable projects. "It would cost
$350 million to $400 million to do everything that has been
identified in each of our buildings. We have tried [instead] to
address the major needs of the district," he said.
is done, he added, the buildings will be able to serve virtually
another generation without additional major work. "It will
carry us 15 to 20 years into the future, not counting the
possibility of the need for another school," he said.
likely reason such a need will arise -- perhaps in about five
years -- will be a decision at either the state or district
level or both to provide full-day public kindergartens.
present proposal for one new school building represents a
scaling down of a proposal for two of them in the 2001
referendum. Moretti said the idea of placing one mext to Stanton
Middle School was dropped because "that site was not
supported by the community."
no elementary school in the northwest section of the district.
Also, Moretti and other district officials have said that
additional capacity is needed if Red Clay is to achieve its goal
of becoming a district in which most, if not all, school
attendance is determined through the state's public school
choice system. The district has offered that long-standing
objective as its Neighborhood Schools Act plan.
somewhat less innovative goal is being advanced as basis for
putting air-conditioning of Highlands Elementary at the head of
the implementation schedule along with acquisition of property
near Hockessin for the new school. Highlands, which is located
in west Wilmington, has proposed going to year-around schooling
beginning as soon as September, 2002. If so, it and an
elementary school in Seaford would be the first such in the
Moretti said, the steadily increasing number of students signing
up to attend summer classes -- plus the need to accommodate the
state requirement for mandatory summer school as part of its
annual assessment testing program -- defines air conditioning as
a present-day necessity.
temperatures can easily reach 80°
or more in September and October and May and June," he
there is a public consensus on the need to upgrade security in
school buildings, he said. Red Clay is piloting a state program
for computer monitoring by video cameras at McKean High School
and is looking to such thing as card-controlled building entry.
infrastructure upgrades are necessary, he said, to comply with
current clean-air and other building standards. The needs, he
explained, show up in such basics as the number of electrical
outlets in some rooms.
average age of our buildings is 42 years. They weren't designed
for today's teaching and learning," he said.