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May 13,  2009

Brandywine district ready
for a moving experience

Anyone who has packed up the family and relocated across town or across the country might be able to appreciate what the Brandywine School District is in for during the coming summer. Just multiply one eight-room house by 14 and it begins to come into focus.

A more-than-two-year process of closing two schools and realigning the district's grade configuration from four tiers to three will reach a climax when moving vans begin shuffling among the 14 district school buildings affected by the changes.

It all gets started on June 10, the day after teachers complete the current academic year. Everything will be in place and ready to start the new year on or before Aug. 17, according to Barbara Meredith, director of support services, who has responsibility for directing the physical realignment of the district.

Those are not just generic target dates. "Failure is not an option," Meredith declares when asked what she considers to be the odds of meeting the tightly-drawn schedule.

That is not to say that she and other administrators and staff involved with executing the moving plan expect it to be accomplished without challenges.

The administrative team which planned and is coordinating the moves required to realign the Brandywine School District consists of  (from left) Gwen Looby, energy management specialist; Traci Fraley, safety and security specialist; and Barbara Meredith, director of support services. The charts on the wall plot the new alignment of classrooms in each of the district's school buildings.

Consider ...

Every school except the district's three high schools will be significantly changed.

Hanby Middle and Darley Road Elementary, which will be shut down after classes are dismissed for the last time in June, will contribute furniture and equipment to the schools which remain.

Springer Middle, which has been located this year in the Burnett building in north Wilmington while its building on Shipley Road in Brandywine Hundred was being renovated, will move back. It and Talley Middle will be expanded by adding sixth grade to their previous seventh and eighth grades.

P.S. du Pont Intermediate will become the district's third middle school, with the same grade configuration. It previously has had fourth, fifth and sixth grades. P.S. also will exchange its kindergarten for a new technical education and family consumer science component.

Claymont and Harlan, the other intermediate schools, will become kindergarten-through-fifth grade elementary schools. The P.S. kindergarten moves to Harlan.

Maple Lane Elementary, which expanded by adding a sixth grade this year, will revert to being a kindergarten-through-fifth grade school.

All the other kindergarten-through-third grade elementary schools -- Brandywood, Carrcroft, Forwood, Lancashire, Lombardy and Mount Pleasant -- will add fourth and fifth grades.

All that shuffling requires that classrooms be aligned by grade and age-appropriate furnishings be correctly placed. About 400 student desks and some 600 chairs will have to be moved to accomplish that.

Except for Springer, which will get new furniture as part of its separately-financed renovation, the buildings will be equipped with existing hardware. With two buildings being closed, there will be more available than needed. The excess, Meredith said, will be disposed of according the state's surplus-disposal rules.

The moving, of course, has a people-impact. About a third of the district's 10,000 students and 1,100 teachers and building staffs will find themselves in new surroundings come August.

Open houses for the youngsters and their families will be scheduled before the new year begins. Teachers have already been meeting with their new sets of colleagues. Reassignments have been made cooperatively with the Brandywine Education Association, the teachers' union, and in accordance with contractual seniority provisions, Meredith said.

Since the school board approved the realignment in February, 2008, there has been a complex interrelated planning process. "We have a curriculum plan, a library plan, an athletic plan, a cafeteria plan -- none of this has been done in a vacuum," she said.

Except for custodians, teachers and building staffs will not participate in the actual moving. But each teacher and staff member is responsible for packing district-owned material they use and labeling the cartons. Whether the boxes are to go to a new building or to a different part of the same building, the requirements are the same.

Meredith said the 16,000 cartons the district purchased for that purpose will be recycled after the move is completed. In keeping with the district's intent to have a 'business-as-usual' atmosphere from the first day in its new configuration, she said the proverbial after-move 'living-out-of-boxes' has been outlawed.

Newark-based Bayshore Transportation Systems was selected as the professional mover on the basis of its response to an open request for proposal, Meredith said.

The district has allotted $1 million to cover the cost of space consolidation and realignment. Chief financial officer David Blowman said that less than $100,000 of that had been spent through the end of March.

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