to accept closure choices
schools superintendent Jim Scanlon strongly indicated that the
school board will chose among Carrcroft and Darley Road
Elementary and Hanby Middle when it decides in February which
schools to close to reduce overcapacity in the district.
He told an overflow crowd of
about 150 people at the final informational meeting before the
space-consolidation committee presents a recommendation to the
board that there is little to no likelihood the board will seek
reconsideration of the committee's choices.
As Delaforum has previously
reported, the committee will offer at least two scenarios. One
would close Darley Road and Hanby and the other would include
Carrcroft with those two.
In response to a question after
his presentation, Scanlon acknowledged that the committee did
not consider a plan linking Carrcroft and Hanby. He did not
indicate whether that combination might be put on the table as
the committee finishes 'tweaking' its recommendations. Its
original charge was to present two or three options to the
The committee's 'tweaking'
involves defining attendance areas for the remaining schools and
the 'feeder' progression students will follow from the
elementary through middle grades to high school. "Economic
diversity is the key piece in this," Scanlon said.
In a separate context earlier in
the meeting on Jan. 2, school board president Joseph Brumskill
said, "I support him (Scanlon) as all the board members do."
Scanlon reiterated that closures
are necessary "in order to protect, maintain and expand
[academic] programs" and are "the fiscally responsible thing to
He said that since the board
in 2004 was dissuaded from closing Hanby
and Brandywood Elementary, the district has 'lost' about 500
more students. Current districtwide enrollment is 10,210 while
rated capacity of its schools is 13,084. The capacity number is
based on Brandywine's program requirements. If the state
capacity formula were used, it would close to 14,000.
"Unfortunately, we have too many
schools and not enough kids going to them," Scanlon said.
He pointed out it will be the
first restructuring undertaken since the Brandywine district was
spun off from a consolidated countywide district in 1981. The
consolidated district was formed in 1978 to comply with a
federal court order to racially desegregate northern Delaware
schools. Brandywine inherited the former Claymont, Alfred I. du
Pont and Mount Pleasant districts and about a fourth of the
former Wilmington Public Schools district. Several schools in
all of those areas were eliminated in the consolidation.
"I did not become a
superintendent to close schools. ... I don't enjoy doing this,"
Scanlon said during his opening remarks at the meeting. "It's a
very emotional process. ... I know we're not going to please
For the most part, the overflow
crowd seemed content to ask questions rather than to vent
feelings. Five asked that Darley Road be spared the axe and one
spoke in support of keeping Hanby open.
The woman who raised the idea of
linking Carrcroft and Hanby said she felt that "Darley Road has
been singled out [to be closed] from the beginning." Scanlon
said he has "made it a point to be very open in this whole
process." He said he has personally taken about 250 telephone
calls about the issue and responded to a countless number of
He told the meeting that the
board has scheduled a public-comment session following the
'workshop' meeting on Jan. 7 at which it will receive the
committee's report. Also, he said, there will be an unspecified
number of public hearings in February before the board makes its
decision, probably at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on
Feb. 25. Actual closure of schools will not occur until after
the 2008-09 academic year.
Scanlon said numerous details,
including where the district's various special programs and its
administrative offices, will be located will be provided in time
for consideration at the February public hearings. He emphasized
that no programs will be dropped as the result of the closures
and that the same number of state-authorized teachers will staff
He said there have been talks
with their union about how to reassign teachers from the closed
schools. Normal practice would be to allow options based on
seniority, but Scanlon said he is concerned that such choices
might result in some schools having predominantly long-serving
teachers and others relatively new ones.
Also, he said, the plan will be
specific about what is to be done with the closed buildings. He
said he already has had preliminary discussions with such
organizations as the Y.M.C.A. and the Boys and Girls Club, which
need space for their children and youth activities.
There also will be 'transition
teams' set up to deal with issues involving individual students
impacted by the changes "so we have that personal touch for our
children." He said he also is considering a way to permit high
school students who otherwise would be affected to remain in the
school in which they begin their high school years.
He said there are talks underway
with the Delaware Department of Education concerning whether
already authorized capital expenses, such as the cost of
renovating Hanby, can be used instead to cover any required
refitting of buildings to accommodate the new grade
configuration. "We think there [will be] enough savings in the
closing of schools to do things with [other] properties" without
having to go to referendum, Scanlon said.