proposal presented by David Blowman, the district's chief
financial officer, is far from firm, but attenders at a
taskforce meeting on July 21 were in general agreement that the
plan, with two modifications, will significantly reduce the
district's expected overcapacity while garnering enough public
acceptance to secure voter approval to borrow enough money to
are an infinite number of new scenarios [and] anything is going
to generate some amount of controversy," said Jeff Bullock,
co-chair of the taskforce.
by Blowman and superintendent Bruce Harter as a 'synthesis' of
ideas previously offered by the taskforce's three committees,
the plan would:
Eliminate the intermediate level by reconfiguring the grade
structure to kindergarten-through-fourth; fifth-through-eighth;
Brandywood Elementary and build a new school on the Lancaster
Elementary site to replace both of the existing schools.
Renovate Springer Middle or replace it with a new building while
converting it to an elementary school and close Hanby Middle.
Mount Pleasant Elementary to a middle school and recently
renovated Harlan Intermediate to an elementary school.
the Bush Early Education Center and reassign the pre-school age
youngsters it serves to one or more of the elementary schools
instead of constructing a new Bush building as previously
committees meeting separately agreed that Mount Pleasant
Elementary should remain an elementary school while the
renovated Springer stays a middle school. School board president
Nancy Doorey then proposed that Hanby be renovated and Springer
closed so that one area of the district -- Brandywood,
Chalfonte and adjacent small communities -- "not have to take
the entire hit."
something of a contradiction in that as Blowman had explained
that the main reason for selecting Lancashire over Brandywood
for retention was ease of access. The Lancashire site is off
Naamans Road while Brandywood is in the development of the same
name. However, Springer is off Shipley Road and Hanby is in
was taken at the taskforce meeting and it was agreed that there
will be further refinements before the plan or plans are taken
to public hearings prior to going before the school board for
three-tier plan Blowman presented is accepted, the district
would have capacity for 11,500 students against a projected
10,100 enrollment when the third and final phase of the
district's building renovation program is currently planned to
be finished in 2010. That would vary somewhat if the committees'
modifications were accepted.
response to the school board's requirement that the taskforce
also come up with a plan which retains the present four-tier
grade configuration, Blowman presented an alternative which
called only for closing Brandywood and Bush and building new at
Lancashire. That, he said, would reduce excess capacity from
2,400 if nothing is done only slightly to 2,000. That plan came
in for virtually no discussion at the meeting.
response to a question, Harter said there is no precise
definition of what constitutes overcapacity in a school
district. "There is no clear-cut standard except to have
enough," he said.
come is a determination of what changes in attendance zones will
be required to fulfill the plan. Harter noted that the district
remains committed to "keeping our socio-economic balance" and
that, as a result, children in "some neighborhoods will not go
to the closest schools."
that changing the zones is likely to generate the most
controversy, Bullock said that can best be addressed by
"balancing the disruption that causes by emphasizing the
advantage of going to [fewer] grade levels."
of the plans involved doing anything about the previously
discussed proposal to move the district's administrative office
from Radnor Green. It was mentioned that several school
buildings would have enough spare space to handle parts of the
administrative structure. Harter said there is no impediment to
splitting up the structure, which, in fact, many districts do.
said current thinking is to leave the ultimate decision pending
and "go where the capacity is when this all shakes out."
not explain the apparent sudden dropping of the idea of
replacing Bush other than to say that the currently accepted
approach to 'special education' is "as much inclusion as
possible" and relocating the Bush program to one or more
elementary schools would be in line with that.
unmentioned were the futures of the leased bus depot and the
Burnett building. In regard to the latter, Harter said the
multi-story former school in north Wilmington will be needed as
a 'holding school' during the third phase of renovations. Beyond
that, he added, "we don't see it as part of our future
[planning] to return it to school use."
points raised during the committees' discussions was the
justification for building new while anticipating a declining
enrollment. The response there was that it can be more
cost-effective, especially in a situation like the one which
exists with Brandywood and Lancashire. Interior design of those
nearly identical buildings is considered educationally obsolete.
was agreed that doing away with Brandywood, an in-neighborhood
school, would seem counter to the idea of favoring local
setting, the committees were told that the reality of today's
world is that few parents are willing to have their young
children go it alone. Judy Curtis, director of educational
services, said that only three Brandywood children, out of a
total of 386 there, are 'walkers'.
capacity of Mount Pleasant Elementary in the four-tier alignment
would be about 1,000 students, which is about double the
traditional size of an elementary school in the Brandywine
district. That could be handled, attenders were told, by
dividing the students into units as is now being done at P.S. du
said the key to a successful reconfiguration of the district
lies in incorporating it with the district's strategic plan.
"Regardless of what we do, it isn't going to affect learning,"
said assistant superintendent Tammy Davis.