IRSD scrutinizing school-choice enrollment procedures

The Indian River School District has been juggling school choice for the past few months. Between space constraints and the now-resolved question of next year’s kindergarten program, school board members have spent more time each month combing through their rules on and goals for school choice.

The program includes children within the district who wish to attend a different school, as well as children county-wide who want to enter IRSD schools.

The board makes all decisions based on principals’ recommendations. That is supposed to be based on capacity. At the June 19 meeting, the board asked for more details about capacity, at the school level and individual grade levels.

For instance, although some children were recommended for acceptance at North Georgetown Elementary School, it appeared that those classes may be applying for oversized-class waivers.

Meanwhile, Sussex Central High School is about 122 students over capacity but is trying to entice more students to come in order to fill the flagship International Baccalaureate program.

Far under capacity, the Georgetown Kindergarten Center is also trying to entice more students, to keep unit counts up and avoid reductions in staff.

“We’re looking, somewhere in the future, at having to build new schools and add onto schools,” said Board Member Leolga Wright. “Adding onto schools because we’re bringing in someone from out of district — we’re going down the same road as a nearby district.”

While she didn’t mention Sussex Technical High School by name, that single-school district was recently ordered to reduce its student population, which had been growing to the point where Tech requested money for a new building.

“We have to be very careful, because we’re the ones paying extra tax dollars,” said Board Member Jim Fritz. “We would like to educate every child, but we don’t have room for every child. That’s what other districts and their buildings are for.”

One parent also came forward to ask that his school-choice children be allowed to continue attending. Although his oldest son made it into the IRSD, both academically and socially, the rising sixth-grader is on the rejection list from the district middle schools.

Application discussions were tabled for this month and will continue in future.

In other IRSD news:

• District retirees were honored this month, including former Superintendent Susan Bunting, whose 39 years in IRSD preceded her recent appointment to be Delaware Secretary of Education.

Local state legislators also presented tributes to the woman who led the IRSD for nearly a decade.

“[Gov. John Carney] is very pleased with what he sees going on here, and I just wanted to share that with you,” said state Rep. Ruth Briggs King. “There are many good things that are happening, and that’s because of you,” she said, motioning to the staff, “and the board.”

“It’s been a grand career here,” said Bunting, adding that she was grateful to help shape today’s IRSD, “which is a model of excellence.”

• After a stormwater drainage pond failed at Georgetown Elementary School, the district is responsible for repairs, although they contend the contractor should have better anticipated the problems with clay soil, and the Department of Natural Resources signed off on the project.

The lowest quote came from Anderson Projects, at $43,600. If the IRSD did not make State-mandated repairs, they could be on the hook for fines and penalties. The board agreed, 6-4, to continue the project, with dissent from W. Scott Collins, Fritz and Wright and fellow Board Member Heather Statler.

The IRSD Board of Education’s next regular meeting is Monday, July 24, at 7 p.m. at Indian River High School.