in very deep trouble" if it is not approved, said board
vice president Irwin Becnel. "Ten years ago, we had 13,500
[students]; we're now up to 16,000 and we're going to continue
to see growth. If this referendum doesn't pass (sic), we won't
have the seats."
[would] impact our ability to reduce class size; impact our
ability to have neighborhood schools. ... We could not provide
the kind of education we want to provide [for] our
children," board member Loretta Rice added.
Robert Andrzejewski said the district would be hard put to
accommodate an expected influx of students from private and
parochial schools when the Neighborhood Schools Act goes into
force. "When people rediscover the [public] schools, they
will not pay to send their children to where they are now,"
he said. Citing an unidentified real estate source, he said that
"for the first time, properties on this side of the
[Delaware-Pennsylvania] line are selling at a higher rate than
across the border." Real estate taxes in Delaware, he
added, are a half to a third of what they are in Pennsylvania.
up those views was Robert Bartoli, principal of H.B. du Pont
Middle School. He said that building is literally overflowing --
into four modular classrooms. The auditorium, where the Mar. 27
meeting was held, has 225 seats, too few to accommodate a full
grade, which has about 250 students. Individual classes average
30 to 32 students. If there were an emergency, it would be
difficult to quickly evacuate the upper floor by way of crowded
amazing how well the kids have managed it," he said.
along with all other schools in the district, would be in line
for extensive renovation if the $74 million bond issue is
authorized at the Apr. 10 referendum. Selling long-term bonds
over a five-year period would qualify the district for $111.2
million in state money.
said that H.B.'s allocation will provide for a new and larger
library to be built where the modular units now stand and
conversion of the present library into science laboratories,
replacing ones that now have to double as classrooms.
Districtwide, the plan calls for providing more capacity to
replace a total of 18 modules now in use; air conditioning all
buildings, looking to the possibility of year-around schooling;
renovating other infrastructure; and upgrading high school
no indication at the meeting nor have district officials
previously stated publicly what alternatives would be pursued if
bond authorization is not obtained.
financial officer Richard Moretti said that, based on being able
to borrow at 6% interest and having total property value in the
district grow at an annual rate of between 1% and 1½%, debt
service could be met with a capital expenditure tax rate
estimated to average 8.72¢ for each $100 of assessed property
value over the 24-year life of the bond issues. The peak 14.62¢
increase would occur the fifth year out. The rate will decrease
year-to-year after that as bonds are paid off.
is a tax level we believe our community can support," he
disclosed that a draft agreement to acquire most of the
'Williams farm' property on Little Baltimore Road opposite
Hockessin Hunt is now circulating among New Castle County
officials. The plan is for Red Clay to buy about 10 acres
on which to build a 600-student elementary school and for the
county to purchase about 33 acres to become parkland. Ed
Williams, who attended the meeting, said he will retain the
remaining 10 acres and continue to farm there.
always wanted it to stay open space. This [arrangement] is as
close as we can come to that," he told Delaforum after the
meeting. Having lived there
since 1944, Williams once had a dairy herd of 110 cows,
operating as Mitch-Will Farms. He now raises hay for horse
the meeting it was said that an alternative to the school-park
plan would be for a commercial builder to put up 100 or more
houses on the tract. "If they get those houses and we don't
build the [new] school, where will they (children who will live
there) go?" Rice said.
said later that he had turned down a proposal by Toll Brothers
Inc. to buy the property, but that firm has told him the offer
still stands if he changes his mind. It is zoned for residential
declined to disclose the price or other terms of the draft
contract. It is indicated, based on difference between the
allocation for the Hockessin school and a virtually identical
one in Stanton, that Red Clay has earmarked about $2 million for
property acquisition and related costs.
both the H.B. situation and the planned new elementary school
would seem to be significant community issues in the
Hockessin area, the meeting was attended by fewer than two dozen
people. And most of those are associated with the district or
involved in the referendum campaign.
that reflects apathy or predetermination of how people will
vote, Becnel said it is imperative that a fire be lit under Red
Clay voters. "We can expect 10,000 'no' votes; we have to
turn out 10,001," he said.
said that all schools in the district are planning events on
Apr. 10 to attract parents, who are prospective supporters of
the bond issue, to the buildings, several of which also will be
polling sites. A special effort is being made to garner support
through distribution of literature at pre-kindergarten schools.
Lawn signs are to go up over the Mar. 31-Apr. 1 weekend.
believe we can demonstrate good stewardship of the people's
money. We're not going to spend extravagantly and we're only
going to sell as many bonds as we need," Becnel said.
of the bond issue, he added, will enable Red Clay to fully
implement its plan to become an all-choice district. "We
can almost guarantee that 90% or better will get their first
choice of elementary school and the rest will get their second
choice," he said. He added that limited 'preference zones'
would put children who live very close to buildings at the top
of the list for admission there, but that all attendance will be
determined through the state's public school choice procedure.
know that 'preference zones' can be controversial -- people who
live in them like them and people who don't live there don't --
but I think we have the best plan," he said. Following the
traditional 'feeder pattern' system, children living in the
Hockessin area are assigned to attend Lewis Elementary School in
Wilmington, he noted.