spoke as the district administration and the volunteer advisory
taskforce appointed to recommend at least two possible plans to
the school board brought four options before the first of three
the approximately 70 attenders at the session on Sept. 23
questioned what would happen to existing programs for both
'gifted' and 'special needs' students as well as other
offerings. "They will all continue although some may end up on
different locations," Harter said.
Bullock, co-chair of the taskforce, stressed that no final
recommendations, let alone decisions, have been made.
Recommendations will come after the taskforce receives and
digests responses from the public. "We're trying to figure out
what scenario we focus on to recommend," he said.
The decision on what to propose to
the Delaware Department of Education to secure state approval
and financing is up to
the school board, he said. The deadline for that is
Oct. 31, but Harter said DelDOE is likely to grant a
two-week extension to ease the time pressure.
"Ultimately it is not
our decision how the district moves forward. It is
the decision of you who live in the district,"
Bullock said. The district intends to go to the
voters in a referendum in the spring of 2005 to
secure authorization to sell bonds to finance its
40% share of the capital costs of what will be the
third and final phase of an extensive building
renovation program which will involve all its
That there is still
flexibility was illustrated by the taskforce's
having reinstated an option between Brandywood and
Lancashire Elementary and Hanby and Springer Middle
as candidates for closure under two of the options.
That either-or choice existed early in the
taskforce's deliberations, but later on the panel in
its open meetings appeared to be agreed upon
Brandywine and Hanby as the more likely choices.
The revision appeared in
printed material distributed at the hearing and
contained in a Power Point presentation. However, Ed
Capodanno, chair of the taskforce's committee which
his or her view concerning Brandywine's facilities
plan options to travelers on Grubb Road.
evaluation, made a case at the hearing for keeping Springer open
because of its larger size and location on Shipley Road, a main
highway. He said Lancashire is favored because it is on Naamans
Road. Being on the roads, rather than nestled within residential
developments, provides easier access, he explained.
expected, potential closure of Hanby dominated the testimony
portion of the hearing. To a person, the teachers, students and
residents who spoke opposed doing so, mostly on the grounds that
the school has a reputation for providing high-quality education
and is highly regarded.
McKenna, one of the objectors, said Hanby's location in
Chalfonte adjacent to Jester Park makes its site a prime
candidate for residential development, which she implied is
undesirable. "Improve what we have; don't destroy what we have,"
said that any building which is closed will be demolished and
the land on which it stood declared surplus. When that happens,
the state, which 'owns' 60% of the property, has a procedure to
follow which involves offering it to a hierarchy of buyers
beginning with public agencies, Bullock said. He acknowledged,
however, that the General Assembly frequently trumps that with
case-specific legislation. Taskforce co-chair Barbara Meredith,
who is employed in the development business, flatly denied a
community rumor that discussions with one or more potential
developers are underway.
member John Skrobot, who was involved in planning the 2001
referendum which financed the second phase of the building
program, denied a contention that a promise was made then that
Hanby would be renovated in the third phase. Susan Dupre, who is
on the Hanby staff, said that was done in order to recruit
volunteers to promote approval of the bond issue. Skrobot
acknowledged there "may have been" an oral statement to that
effect, but said it was not made a part of the referendum
proposal nor contained in published material supporting the bond
know what happened in 2001. For the purposes of the taskforce,
that is not really a factor," Bullock said.
that he attended elementary, middle and high schools in what was
then the Claymont district and all three are now history, he
said that neither he nor any other member of the taskforce
"wants to close any schools" but that doing so might be
necessary "for the good of the district as a whole."
to put our heart-felt feelings for these schools aside. ... It's
what comes down to dollars and cents," said taskforce member
testimony, Alex Rittberg questioned the validity of the
prediction of as much as a 10% decline in enrollment over the
next few years, the main basis for the overcapacity
justification for closing schools. Five of 20 houses on his
street in Graylyn Crest have been sold recently by owners who
are up in years and all were purchased by young families he
said, adding that that is more likely to be the future course of
the residential market in Brandywine Hundred.
the district's grade configuration to three from the present
four tiers, which is called for in two of the options, was
criticized by some speakers as producing too wide an age gap
between fifth- and eighth-graders. Judith Curtis, the district's
director of educational services, said that can be controlled by
providing separate programs and 'teaching teams' for the
said the district now experiences a noticeable drop in
enrollment among the students moving from third grade in
elementary school to fourth in intermediate schools. Debra
Silverman, who recently moved to Delaware, said she was advised
before doing so to "avoid the four-through-six [grade] schools."
That, she said, has caused several people whose jobs are coming
to Delaware to continue to live in Pennsylvania. Two of the
district's three intermediate schools are in the city of
Wilmington and the other is in Claymont.
said that maintaining the present "socio-economic balance" in
the district's schools is desirable in order to retain the
services of good teachers and "provide better education for all
our students." It is an accepted view among educators that
'high-poverty' schools with a high proportion of students from
low-income households offer an inferior product, he explained.
All the taskforce options, he said, satisfy that criteria.
are challenges [in whatever option is decided upon], but we
don't see any that are insurmountable," Bullock said.