proposals are still very much in the conceptual stage with
details being worked out and statistical data being developed as
the committee prepares for the first of five public hearings
prior to the school board's anticipated approval of a final plan
for submission to the state Board of Education. The final plans
is due in Dover by Nov. 15.
committee has been told to provide at least two plans for
consideration by the board and the public. It previously had
developed rough outlines of four potential plans and
subsequently came up with two versions of one of them.
meeting on Aug. 22, the committee gave its strongest nod to a
proposal which would, in effect, establish Brandywine's
portion of the city of Wilmington as an entity within the
district. Harlan Intermediate School would serve children living
in the city from kindergarten through third grade. They would go
on to P.S. for the remainder of their public school education.
Those two buildings are just a few blocks apart.
superintendent Donald Fantine said that the P.S. building is
large enough and laid out in such a way that it can be
physically and administratively divided so that the younger and
older students would actually be attending separate schools in
the same building. Arrivals and departures could be staggered
and other arrangements made so that the different age groups
would have minimal contact with each other, he said. The
division probably would occur between eighth and ninth grades.
alternative, he said, would be to reinstitute the plan approved
by state authorities two years ago but never brought to
referendum by the district to replace the now-closed high-rise
Burnett school building with a conventional elementary school
building on the same north Wilmington campus with P.S. If that
were done, P.S. would become a combination middle- and high
school. It started out in the 1930s as a combination
junior-senior high school. Fantine said a new Burnett also could
be used for fourth through eighth grade with P.S. becoming just
a high school.
elementary schools, under the plan would be kindergarten through
fifth or sixth grade with attendance zones established by
shifting theoretical mid-point lines between the existing
buildings to align projected enrollments with capacities.
Students would then be 'fed' from those schools into the more
proximate of the existing three middle schools.
plan is more nebulous at this stage, but envisions using postal
zip codes as the basis for assigning students throughout the
district to schools. Those living in the 19802 area, which
covers north Wilmington and a small slice of suburbia just north
of the city, would go to P.S. or Harlan from kindergarten
through sixth grade. If it were decided to end elementary school
a year earlier, P.S. would become the sixth-through-eighth-grade
middle school for city youngsters.
said that his subcommittee's proposal has the advantage of
providing considerable space in what would then be four high
schools to accommodate essentially anyone wanting to use the
state public school choice law to select a high school. That
would include both those living in the district -- a city
youngster desiring to attend a high school in the suburbs, for
instance -- or out of the district -- such as a student living
in Red Clay's portion of north Wilmington who did not want to go
to one of that district's high schools in the suburbs west of
member Subira Ivrahim questioned, however, whether P.S. du Pont
High, which would have only about half the enrollment of
Brandywine's three suburban high schools, would qualify for as
diverse an academic program as they did. Superintendent Bruce
Harter said that, on the other hand, some academic research
indicates that high schoolers in schools with smaller
enrollments tend to perform better. Committee member Fran
Freedman pointed out that the former Claymont High School was
closed several years ago because of a similar enrollment
comparison and "you'd be telling people in the city that what
wouldn't do in Claymont would be good enough for them."
only a brief mention of the cost of converting P.S., which
became an intermediate school under the federal court's racial
desegregation order in the late 1970s, back to a secondary
school. Seeking state support beyond the normal 70-30 capital
costs split as part of its neighborhood schools plan might be a
possibility, Fantine suggested.
provides a one-time appropriation of $1.25 million to each
affected district to cover the costs of transition to
neighborhood schools. Fantine noted that the Department of
Education had approved spending a total of $17.5 million, state
and local money combined, to finance building a new Burnett
codes as the basis for assigning students was presented as an
objective approach which would employ a generally accepted
system which, in at least a broad way, has come to define
addition to the city arrangement, the version of the zip-code
plan which the committee opted for would have students in the
19803 area divided between Lombardy and Carrcroft Elementary;
19810 among Brandywood, Lancashire and Forwood; and 19703 and
19809 combined and split among Claymont, Darley Road, Maple Lane
and Mount Pleasant Elementary. Similar groups would be used by
the middle- and high schools.
told the committee that her conversations with city officials
and residents indicated there is support for an arrangement by
which children in kindergarten through eighth grade would be
Wilmington Neighborhood Schools Committee was considering city
plans, there was considerable emphasis among its members for
establishing middle- and high schools in the city. P.S. was
cited then as a logical site for at least the high school. The
only public schools at those levels now in the city are Cab
Calloway School of the Arts, which runs from fifth grade through
high school, and Charter School of Wilmington, a high school.
Both are specialty schools.
Brandywine committee also discussed briefly how a neighborhood
schools plan would be put into effect. The law calls for that to
happen with the beginning of the 2003-04 academic year, but it
is generally assumed that the state board would go along with a
phasing in, so long as the process started then.
committee discussion was inconclusive but there seemed to be
agreement that the public would tend to favor immediate
implementation at the elementary-grades level while it would be
accepting of phasing for secondary students. In the latter case,
there will probably be a strong desire among many high school
students, particularly juniors and seniors, to graduate from the
school they were then attending.
"Whenever you do it, moving children
from school to school is not too well received by parents,"