isn't the end; this is just the beginning of the journey," Craig
Gilbert told fellow board members before they voted five-to-one,
with an abstention, to send the plan to the Delaware Department
of Education. "The easy part of the work has been done," he
officer David Blowman predicted that "at some point, it (the
plan) will come back before you after negotiations with the
state." He explained that DelDOE staff could either accept the
plan as it stands or agree to put up something less than the
$75.9 million that would be the state's 60% share of the cost if
it did so The latter course would leave it up to the district
board to decide whether to ask voters to approve financing a
higher-than-usual local share.
to a possible third option, Blowman said, "If the state said we
need to reduce capacity, then it's a whole new ball game."
board adjourned the public portion of the meeting on Nov. 8 to
go into a closed-door executive session -- the purpose of which
was not stated -- Blowman, who worked for DelDOE before being
hired by Brandywine, declined to comment on the odds for any of
the three possibilities.
components of the plan are to construct a new building for
Brandywood Elementary, which would include a separate wing to
house the Bush Early Education Center, which would move out of
its present building in Talleyville and to build a new
Lancashire Elementary. The respective proposed costs of those
buildings are $15.9 million and $12.8 million.
costly component, at $42 million, is total renovation of P.S. du
Pont Intermediate. Also to be renovated are Hanby and Springer
Middle. The district office is to be moved from its present
building in Radnor Green, possibly to the Mount Pleasant
Elementary building, and a replacement at a so-far-undetermined
location provided for the leased bus depot in northeast
member Thomas Lapinski cast the negative vote. He did not state
a reason at the meeting, but told Delaforum afterwards that he
did so because the less expensive plan favored by the volunteer
facilities taskforce -- which included closing Brandywood and
Hanby -- would be "in the best interests of the district, long
term." He added that the decision about which way to go "isn't
an educational issue; it's a financial issue."
Skelly said she abstained in support of the taskforce's position
that its favored option was the better of the two plans under
final consideration. Abstaining rather than voting 'no' was "a
matter of personal choice," she said.
president Nancy Doorey said she was influenced to favor the plan
the board adopted largely by apparently overwhelming community
support for it. She noted that this is the third time that
sampling public opinion turned up support for continuing with
the four-tier grade configuration initially imposed in the late
1970s in response to the federal court mandate in the since
ended racial desegregation case.
new element to emerge during the discussion before the board
voted was a comment by superintendent Bruce Harter that he is
exploring possibilities for "enhancing our partnerships with
other educational or community organizations" through what he
indicated would be a sharing of facilities made possible as a
result of their having some excess capacity. He said he is not
yet prepared to bring forth a recommendation in that regard.
a phenomenal opportunity in front of us if we have excess
capacity. ... We will have space to be better able to do things
to help our children and their families," Doorey later said. She
was not specific about what those things might be.
formally recommending the plan the board adopted, Harter
acknowledged that enrollment projections by University of
Delaware demographers are "uncertain." Whether or not the
anticipated decline will occur was a point of dispute during
testimony at public hearings on the taskforce's recommendation.
advocating budgeting to develop "a full-scale marketing plan" to
attract students to Brandywine schools, Gilbert said, "We [will]
have a lot of capacity; let's fill these schools up."
motion to accept Harter's recommendation and approve the plan
carried a proviso that the board continue to use volunteer
experts in construction and related fields to oversee
renovations during the life of what is to be the third and final
phase of a long-range program begun in the mid-1990s. The
timetable presented with the plan calls for renovating P.S.
during the 2007-08 academic year after a year to plan that work.
It would end with completion of the new Brandywood by the start
of the 2012-13 year.
also proposed a fall-back plan substituting renovating
Brandywood and Lancashire in the event that DelDOE rejects the
idea of replacing them. He dropped it, however, after Blowman
explained the procedure that will be followed.
board's vote actually was to authorize the district to seek a
'certificate of necessity' from DelDOE for the overall project.
If it is recommended by the department staff and approved by the
state Board of Education, the proposal goes to the state budget
office for inclusion in the capital-spending plan -- the
so-called 'bond bill' -- that will be up for General Assembly
approval in June.
would be obtained by the sale of 20-year state bonds. For that
to happen, voters in the Brandywine district will have to
approve issuance, through the state, of bonds to finance the
local share of the cost.
has tentatively set the spring of 2005 as the time to hold the
referendum. Actual terms of that vote will not be determined
until after the DelDOE and budget office decisions are made.
mentioned in his recommendation the possibility of including a
separate capital financing proposal. He later explained that
would go for such things as a new vehicle approach to Brandywine
High. Also left undecided was how much money should be sought to
finance improvements to playgrounds and athletic fields at the