and Hanby are
likely school-closure targets
committee charged with making recommendations to address
overcapacity in the Brandywine district appears to have zeroed
in on plans that would close Darley Road Elementary and Hanby
Middle and, possibly, Carrcroft Elementary Schools.
No final decision was reached
but, with a self-imposed deadline looming just beyond the turn
of the year, the space consolidation committee agreed by
consensus to have financial officer David Blowman determine if
logical attendance zones for either or both of those
combinations meet the economic-diversity priority set for any
new alignment. A University of Delaware computer model which
pinpoints the homes of every public school student will be used
to do that, he said.
The diversity guideline is that
every school end up with between 20% and 50% of its students
being eligible, by virtue of household income, to receive free
or reduced-price lunches.
At a meeting on Dec. 11, the
committee, in effect, rejected four previously proffered
scenarios expected to generate the most intense public
opposition because they would involve closing more than one
school in the same general area.
In doing so, the committee
latched on to a sixth scenario put forth by superintendent Jim
Scanlon as a way to provide space for relocating the district's
administrative office and its technology group. He told the
group that it would be acceptable even though it falls about 150
student seats short of the goal of reducing by at least half the
number left vacant by current enrollment. However, Scanlon said,
the relocations would use the equivalent of between 414 and 575
Closing Darley Road, Carrcroft
and Hanby -- identified as Scenario No. 1 at the committee's
Dec. 5 meeting -- would eliminate about 250 seats more than the
goal of at least 1,350 and was said then to be the least costly
of the proposals to implement.
Scenario No. 6 would leave Carrcroft in operation. Because
Talley and Springer, the remaining middle schools, would not
have enough combined room to accommodate all the district's
sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, P.S. du Pont, in both
scenarios, would become a middle school with the option of later converting
it to a kindergarten-though-eighth-grade school left open.
Scanlon told the
committee that Scenario No. 6 would retain the district's plan to
replace Brandywood Elementary with a new building designed not
only to incorporate current education practices but also to
include a state-of-the-art wing into which to relocate the Bush
Early Education Center, previously designated to be closed when
the third and final phase of the district's school renovation
program is completed.
Carrcroft and Darley Road were
renovated during the first phase, but since that was before
1999, they have been designed as eligible for closure.
Rather than building on its
present site in its namesake community, the new Brandywood could
be located on the larger Hanby site in Chalfonte. The district
has state authorization to build a new Brandywood and tear down
the existing building although Blowman noted that "no taxpayer
dollars are actually committed yet" to those capital projects.
The committee believes the General Assembly's bond-bill
committee would be amenable to authorizing the razing of the
Hanby building in lieu of its more costly authorized renovation.
If diversity-qualified attendance
zones hold up, Scenario No. 6 calls for students from Brandywood,
Claymont and Lancashire Elementary to go to Tally Middle and
Concord High; students from Forwood, Lombardy and Mount Pleasant
Elementary would go to Springer Middle and Brandywine High; and
students from Carrcroft, Harlan, and Maple Lane would attend P.S. and go to Mount
Under Scenario No. 1, Brandywood
and Claymont would 'feed' Talley and Concord; Forwood,
Lancashire and Maple Lane would 'feed' Springer and Brandywine;
and Harlan, Lombardy and Mount Pleasant Elementary would 'feed'
P.S. and Mount Pleasant High.
The district offices would be
moved from the former Pennsylvania Avenue Elementary School in
Radnor Green to unused space in what would become Claymont
Elementary and the technology unit from the former data
processing consortium center in Talleyville to the Mount
Pleasant Elementary building near Bellefonte. Both of those
schools would be kindergarten-through-fifth-grade schools. A
future pre-kindergarten program also could be housed in the
Mount Pleasant Elementary building, Scanlon said.
Under any scenario, he said, the
Burnett building in north Wilmington will be closed and the bus
depot in northeast Wilmington relocated.
The downside of Scenario No. 6 is
that it would result in there being two elementary schools --
P.S. and Harlan -- within two blocks of each other in north
Wilmington. Blowman said that, combined, they would end up
serving between 35% and 40% of the district's elementary-age
The committee has one more work
session scheduled before the end of the year. It hopes to
present a preliminary report to the school board -- recommending
at least two but no more than three options -- in early January.
The Dec. 11 meeting attracted about 30 attenders, the most for
any work session since the process began in September. All of
the work sessions have been open to the public.
Scanlon said that it is still
expected that the board will make its decision before the end of
February but that public discussion of whatever options are
officially before it could push that timetable into March. In
any event, he said, it will take until summer, 2009, to prepare
the extensive logistics necessary to put the plan into effect.
In a free-wheeling conversation
committee members discussed likely effects of school closures
and resultant attendance zone realignments on families. A
present third-grader, for instance, faces the prospect of going
from his or her elementary school to fourth grade in one of the
three intermediate schools for the 2008-09 academic year; back
to elementary school -- possibly his or her present one --
for fifth grade in August, 2009, when the changes are scheduled
to take place; and then to sixth grade in a middle school for
the 2010-11 academic year.
"At the end of any year we're
going to have to shift around. We'll just have to bite the
bullet and make it work," Scanlon said.
One committee member noted that
the Scenario No. 1 'feeder' pattern would send the large number
of children living in Fairfax to Mount Pleasant High instead of
Brandywine High, with which that community has been associated
since Brandywine was opened more than 50 years ago.
Noting that Maple Lane has been
successful implementing a year-around program, is expanding its
enrollment and has a principal, Julianne Pecorella, recently
designated as the state's 'principal of the year', a committee
member drew applause when she asked, "Why are we even
considering doing anything [different] with Maple Lane?"
Another pointed out that closing
Hanby would amount to reneging on a commitment made during the
2005 capital-referendum campaign to renovate that school and
said merely explaining that 'we've changed out mind' will not
cut it with that community.
Deciding the fate of closed
buildings should be done quickly, another said. Remembering the
many years that the derelict former Chanin School building
stood, "people are going to ask if they're going to have another
Chanin near [their] house," he said.
A woman in the audience said
particular attention should be paid to adhering to the diversity
formula so that every school "will have a majority of good
kids." She said the first question parents will ask is "the type
of children their kids are going to school with and where they