school closing scenarios
School District's space consolidation committee moved into the
final and most critical phase of its assignment: Deciding which
of the district's 13 schools it will recommend be closed.
Superintendent Jim Scanlon
presented four of the most likely scenarios and the committee
added a fifth one while brainstorming the pros and cons of each.
No conclusions were reached although the conversation at a
meeting on Dec. 5 provided a few hints about how some committee
members are thinking.
• Scenario No. 1 -- Close
Carrcroft and Darley Road Elementary and Hanby Middle.
• Scenario No. 2 -- Close
Brandywood and Darley Road Elementary and Hanby Middle.
• Scenario No. 3 -- Close Darley
Road and Maple Lane Elementary and Hanby Middle.
• Scenario No. 4 -- Close
Brandywood, Carrcroft, Darley Road and Maple Lane Elementary
while converting P.S. du Pont Intermediate to a
kindergarten-through-eighth grade elementary school.
The scenario added by the
committee would close Carrcroft, Darley Road and Maple Lane
board is scheduled to receive the committee's
recommendations -- probably involving two or three ranked
alternatives -- in January and to make a decision in February.
The actual closures are not likely to take place until after the
2008-09 academic year.
As previously reported, a pivotal
element in the restructuring is an all but certain move from the
four-tier grade alignment which has existed since the district
was established following court-ordered racial desegregation in
the late 1970s. On at least two occasions in the past -- when
the desegregation order was lifted and when a state law mandated
a 'neighborhood schools' plan -- the current arrangement was
kept in place with apparently strong community support.
There is some evidence that
attitude may have shifted. "I have not heard a negative comment
about K-5," Scanlon told the committee.
Under the new arrangement,
fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate schools would be
eliminated. Except for those who live in the city of Wilmington,
children would attend elementary school from kindergarten
through the fifth grade. There is a self-contained kindergarten
in the P.S. du Pont building in north Wilmington. Middle schools
would add the sixth grade to the present seventh and eighth
grades. High schools would remain ninth-through-12th grade.
To accommodate the new
arrangement the proposed scenarios call for the function of some
buildings to be changed. At present, it is hoped that schools
can be grouped into 'clean' feeder patterns which would keep
groups of youngsters whose residences do not change together for
their entire academic career.
While presenting his list,
Scanlon emphasized that it was intended to be preliminary and to
be used as a basis for further discussion.
Next step, he said, will be to
obtain data from the Delaware Department of Education to
determine attendance zones and whether they would meet the
committee's previously agreed upon priority for economic
To that end, board president
Joseph Brumskill made a strong pitch for restructuring P.S. as a
kindergarten-through-eighth grade magnet school to attract
students from suburban Brandywine Hundred. Failure to do that,
he said, would result in racial bias and fear of going into the
city taking hold. "If the program is not designed to attract
people, they're not going to come," he said.
All four of Scanlon's scenarios
would exceed the objective of reducing districtwide excess
capacity -- currently given as 2,800 seats -- by at least
half. Based on current enrollment, Scenario No. 1 would
eliminate 1,611 empty seats; No. 2, 1,645; No. 3, 1,634; and No.
4, 1,832. Like data is not yet available for the
committee-initiated scenario but it, too, is believed to meet
the capacity-reduction guideline.
Two committee members pointed out
that three of the four Scanlon scenarios paired schools in close
proximity -- Brandywood and Hanby in the Brandywood-Chalfonte
area and Darley Road and Maple Lane in Claymont. A 2005 proposal
to close Brandywood and Hanby drew vehement community
opposition. Many years after the fact, some Claymont residents
are still smarting over closure of Claymont High.
An imponderable is whether to
proceed with the plan, already approved at referendum and
authorized by DelDOE, to replace Brandywood with a new building.
It was suggested that a new Brandywood could be located on the
present Hanby site.
Also up for consideration is the
fate of closed buildings. It was suggested that turning back the
state share of Brandywood construction money might induce state
officials to provide the smaller amounts required to immediately
demolish the closed buildings.
The first three Scanlon scenarios
and the committee-generated one would result in the district's
three middle schools being at or beyond rated capacity because
of the addition of sixth grades. Mount Pleasant and Claymont
Elementary would have significant excess capacity in all the
scenarios, but those buildings could also be used to house the
district's administrative offices, technology operations and
alternative education program.