committee considered the pros and cons of four possible
alignments, including maintaining the current one, at a meeting
on June 16. It did not come up with a conclusion although it
appeared to have eliminated by consensus the idea of defining
kindergarten-through-fifth grade as elementary school.
the districts are going to 'K-5'. Why can't we?" said Robert
Maffia, vice president of Tetra Tech Inc. and a member of the
Blowman, the district's chief financial officer, replied that
Brandywine's elementary school buildings -- which now house
kindergarten through third grade -- are too small to do that.
Doorey, president of the school board, added that
twice-expressed community sentiment overwhelmingly supported
retaining the present alignment. The most recent was at an
actual plebiscite during consideration of how to comply with the
state Neighborhood Schools Act and the state Board of Education
backed up that decision.
six grades in a building which now has four would necessarily
result in having more children in the classes, she added. Total
enrollment in the building would be about the same and, since
the state allotment of teachers is based on total enrollment,
the same number of teachers as now comprise the faculty would
have to be spread over more classrooms, she explained.
the status quo is automatically one of two options the
committee and its parent task force is required by its charge to
present to the Brandywine board as part of its planning for the
third and final phase of the district's building renovation
program and a tax referendum to finance it.
addition, the committee is looking at two options which would
combine either fifth-through-eighth grades or six-through-ninth
as middle schools. The present arrangement, which dates from
compliance in the late 1970s with the federal court order
combining suburban districts and Wilmington to achieve racial
desegregation, has kindergarten-through-third as elementary;
fourth-through-sixth as intermediate; seventh and eighth as
middle; and ninth-through-12th as high schools. The court then
ordered all children to attend school in the city for at least
three years. Brandywine, the most compact of the four districts
involved, has elected to basically retain that arrangement
although one of its intermediate schools has since been
relocated from Wilmington to Claymont.
committee consensus strongly endorsed having grades
configuration consistent throughout the district rather than
varying among some schools.
desegregation order having been lifted and race effectively
eliminated by both federal and state law as a criteria for
'diversity', the taskforce mandate calls for 'socio-economic
diversity' as determined by the number of students in a school
who qualify by household income for free or reduced-price lunch.
with Maffia's expressed desire to "keep it (the K-5 scenario) on
the table" was Margaret Fox's support for retaining the present
arrangement as the only specifically stated preferences at the
committee meeting. "Our racial balance is good. The community is
happy with it, teachers are happy and the kids are happy," said
the second-grade teacher who has taught in the district and its
predecessor districts for 31 years.
Brumskill, school board vice president and a resident of the
area, noted that there appears to have been a shift in the
racial composition of people living in the western side of north
Wilmington. "I see more young white families walking around than
I did when I first moved in," he said.
the options presented to the committee called for relocating the
district's administrative offices from Pennsylvania Avenue in
Radnor Green to either the Concord High or Mount Pleasant
Elementary building. Nothing was put forth concerning what would
happen to the present headquarters building, which once housed
an elementary school, but Superintendent Bruce Harter said it
would be cost-prohibitive to convert it back in a way that would
comply with current educational standards or building codes.
it is that we do, it's not going to be what we did with Channin
and Old Mill Lane," he said. Those schools were closed during
the desegregation shuffle and the buildings have since become
apparently ruled out in a different context was the possibility
of closing one of the district's three high schools or returning
the P.S. du Pont Intermediate building to being a high school.
The former, Harter said, would be "politically untenable" and
likely to embroil the district in a bigger row than what
happened when it closed Claymont High several years ago. The
necessity of putting in science laboratories and other high
school-required facilities would make that prohibitive, he said.
of the possible scenarios presented to the committee, however,
P.S. would become a middle school as would Harlan and Claymont
Intermediate. One scenario would involve closing Springer Middle
and another would close both Springer and Hanby Middle.
there is an assumption that any proposed school closing is
likely to draw opposition from the public, Richard Geisenberger,
assistant state secretary of state and a member of the
committee, said, "Almost by definition you have to close
something; otherwise you would be wasting tax dollars."
renovated since 1999 or slated for renovation during the current
second phase are off-limits from consideration for possible
inevitable in such discussion, committee members came up with
variations on the possibilities the district administration
offered. While not ruling out the possibility of modifying them,
Harter said the options appeared to be the most practical in
terms of being achievable. "If we put out all the possibilities,
it would take a lot more than six months to decide," he said.
One of the options studied but not presented was making P.S. a
high school again, he added.
addition to the taskforce's work, the district is using an
outside consulting firm to produce a marketing plan for how best
to attract additional students from outside the district through
the state's public school choice law and from private schools.
that effort is successful, the district is going to have excess
student capacity. "We're not so good that everybody is going to
'choice' in," he said. "I don't know how we're going to justify
that (being overcapacity)."
options were presented along with data relating enrollment with
capacity if there were adopted. The figures, however, did not
take into account the possibility that the state will soon
mandate that public school districts offer full-day kindergarten
Geisenberger said that is "not a question of if, but of when."
The General Assembly's apparently having agreed to finance the
full cost of enlarging or remodeling buildings to accommodate
additional enrollments resulting from combining now separate
half-day sessions "is probably what's going to put it over the
top," he said.
pointed out that current thinking in Dover is to make all-day
kindergarten an option for parents rather than a requirement.
But Harter said that the Smyrna district, which went that route
voluntarily, had only three parents opting for half-day
schooling. In Florida, where he formerly was a district
superintendent, and elsewhere "full-day is a given," he said.
Brandywine currently offers full-day kindergarten as an option
and Harter said between a quarter and a third of its
kindergarteners are enrolled in between 10 and 15 classes. A fee
is required to participate in the program. but it is waived for
said that, in planning the third phase of the renovation
program, the administration will provide for "the full life of
the building [rather than] just what looks pretty for a few
years," adding that "that standard didn't apply in the [first]