voters authorize a record bond sale, the physical structure of
the schools "will be pretty well set for 25 to 30 years,
except for programmatic changes," said chief financial
officer Richard Moretti. Primarily, plumbing, heating,
ventilation, air conditioning and mechanical systems will be
updated with modifications made, as required, to classroom,
science laboratory, library and athletic facilities.
only will approval to finance the $74.16 million local share of
a state-approved $185 million construction and renovation
program provide modernization of infrastructure, it also will
to the district's decision to break with long-standing
tradition and provide all 16,000 students and their
parents free choice of where and what kind of school
they want to attend.
in the program is construction of two 600-student
elementary schools -- one in Stanton and the other in
the Hockessin-North Star area. They account for about
$22.4 million of the program.
they open -- Moretti said that could be as soon as
September, 2002, if voters agree -- Red Clay will have
sufficient room to totally convert to a kindergarten-through-fifth
grade elementary configuration and, according to school
board president William Manning, virtually assure that
everyone living in the district will get to go to the
school of first choice. That is now the situation at the
high school level. Red Clay has 15,800 students.
is significant in that Red Clay's board apparently will
opt to submit employing the state's public school choice
law as its plan for complying with the Neighborhood
Schools Act. That plan is due to go to the Delaware
Department of Educate in November. If DelDOE buys into
the idea, it probably will mean that Red Clay will be
the first of the four northern New Castle County
districts formerly covered with the federal court
desegregation order to come into compliance with the
addition to student capacity to handle an all-voluntary
student attendance pattern, the district would be poised
Clay building program
A.I. du Pont
H.B. du Pont
new building (Hockessin cost includes
possible land acquisition.)
five-year program is completed to deal with what educators define
as the major immediately pressing refinements to their delivery of
service. They include school all year around, full-day public
kindergarten, before- and after-school child care and the ability
to become only the second of the state's 19 districts to meet the
mandated limit on the size of primary-grade classes without
waivers from the law.
those things are coming and we'll be ready," Moretti said.
to the new schools, Highlands Elementary, which is now studying feasibility
of a year-around program, stands next in line. Moretti said that,
too, could be in place in the 2002-03 academic year. "If the
referendum goes through (sic), we'll begin implementing [the
program] immediately on an expedited schedule," he said.
would be some work done at all 24 schools. The largest
appropriation is earmarked for the Wilmington campus, which houses
Red Clay-chartered Charter School of Wilmington and the Cab
Calloway School of the Arts. The smallest slice would go to
Brandywine Springs Elementary, which opened last September in the
renovated former Hercules Inc. marketing center.
Noennich, director of communications services, referred to the
district's intent as "being able to provide prototype
schools" for the just arrived new century.
in crafting the program and its referendum approach, Red Clay
broke with immediate past precedent and decided to give its
residents a single up-or-down choice. Last time out -- in 1997 --
the ballot was divided into three questions, of which voters
was a conscious decision this time, Moretti said, to put all the
eggs into the proverbial one basket.
didn't want to pit community against community or development
against development. It (the program) was designed as a single
package and we're going to put it out there as a single
package," he said.
he added, is he overly concerned with the fact that the
authorization request -- and resultant increase in the district's
tax rate -- are by far the largest ever sought by a Delaware
district. It is nearly double the previous record, a $96 million
program with a $38.4 million local price tag, approved in the
Colonial School District.
Red Clay voters give their assent, the capital expenditure tax
rate will increase an average of 8.72¢ for each $100 of assessed
property value over the 24-year life of the bond issue. The peak
14.62¢ increase will occur the fifth year out. The rate will
decrease year-to-year after that as bonds are paid off.
Clay currently has a capital expenditure, or debt service, rate of
1.6¢. Its total rate is 87.5¢ on residential property and 95.7¢
on commercial property. The difference results from the district's
having adopted the state-financed reduction in the residential
rate. Officials have said there is no need to increase the present
operating-tax rate for several years. Moretti said property value
in the district is increasing by about 1.5% annually.
said going for broke represents a decision to level with Red Clay
voters. "We're saying this is what is needed to maintain
quality education in this district," he said.
everyone in the district had their druthers, the program would
have come in somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 million, he
said. "We started by asking [teachers, administrators and
parents] what they would want if they could have an ideal school.
We then took that and asked what was essential to have a good
school that could offer a quality program," he explained.
DelDOE further pared the program before granting the required
certificates of necessity.
dealing with infrastructure and building needs, Red Clay is in a
curious situation. The new schools, if they are built, will
contrast with one, Alexis I. du Pont Middle, which is more than
100 years old. There never was any thought of replacing that
building at Westover Hills, or the venerable Emalea Pusey Warner
building in Wilmington because structurally they could never be
duplicated, he said. Interiors of both the old buildings and other
existing ones will be brought up to current standards, he
said there also never was any question that schools in the city
would share in the program, even though Wilmington city government
is headed toward possibly or eventually establishing a separate
school system. "Why not [include them] -- they're our
kids," he said.
said being straightforward with voters is more likely to work than
any attempt to feed them the program piecemeal. "Last time,
the referendum had three parts and the people didn't believe us
when we said they were all [of] equal [need]. We now have 18
trailers (modular classrooms), waiting lists [for choice
applicants] at a lot of schools, and classes beyond the
[elementary class-size] cap. The trailers alone are equal to a
school. And in the northwest quadrant, the need for space is
desperate," she said.
said the district and all its schools will devote the next month
to an intensive information effort to "acquaint everyone with
the facts" prior to voting day. To that end, Red Clay has
hired Rob Clemens, previously a member of former U.S. Senator
William Roth's staff, to coordinate the effort.
officials say they are giving residents an honest count of what
the situation is and confidently awaiting their response in the