Indian River School District to hold January referendum
No new schools, but more classrooms are the goal
The Indian River School District could build 38 new classrooms at six district schools — if voters agree this coming January. Faced with rising enrollment and cramped classrooms, the IR Board of Education voted at their Nov. 27 meeting to approve a referendum on Jan. 29, 2013.
A successful referendum would help the IRSD to build four classrooms at Phillip Showell Elementary, two at Selbyville Middle, and eight each at Long Neck, North Georgetown and East Millsboro elementary schools and the Georgetown Elementary/Middle School Complex.
Voters residing in the district can answer two questions in the January referendum. The first would allow the IRSD and State of Delaware to sell bonds (or borrow money) to fund the $11,011,000 project. The state funds 60 percent ($6,606,600), while Indian River is responsible for 40 percent ($4,404,400).
The second question involves a tax increase to pay the bills. The district is requesting an additional 11.5 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That money would fund the additional resources going into those new classrooms, including desks, technology, supplies, utilities, additional staff and programs that use the space, from summer school to advanced academics.
While the district graduated around 550 students in June, recent kindergarten classes have numbered in the upper 700s and sometimes hit 800. Long Neck and Georgetown are particularly affected by population growth. Over time, bubbles of students are expected to fill all school levels.
In June, the school board began preparing Certificates of Necessity, also considering a new elementary or middle school, along with the option of building new classrooms. The Delaware Department of Education approved the third option, which IR will pursue: new classrooms at many schools.
Now, district officials have eight weeks to educate the public and get a majority of “yes” votes if the plan is to move forward.
“We’re available to speak to any civic group that would wish to have us come,” said IRSD Superintendent Susan Bunting. “We’re just begging for the opportunity to share what it is that we have in front of us.”
The district was set to begin informing teachers and staff about the referendum immediately, while also sending information into the community. Two public meetings will be scheduled soon.
“We have a lot of enthusiasm, and we’re ready to roll,” Bunting said.
Indian River’s last referendum, in March of 2010, did not involve a tax increase. The successful bill allowed IRSD to transfer leftover funds from one construction project to another. The last building referendum was in 2006. The questions in that referendum all passed, allowing roof renovations at Selbyville Middle, and Long Neck and North Georgetown elementary schools.
In other IR Board of Education news:
• The IRSD board received an update on the Common Core State Standards Initiative, in which 45 U.S. states have partnered to provide a more advanced education.
All schools have standards, or goals, which students must reach. The new Common Core is based on the highest national and international standards, aimed at giving students a competitive edge in the global economy. Indian River schools will raise the level of rigor in each grade, with a stronger focus on relevant literacy, information and math.
Since most of the country will have identical standards, students who move to different states are expected to have an easier time transitioning, because they’ll face the same educational expectations. Plus, Common Core is considered cost-effective because states can pool their resources and share lessons, rather than each state researching and designing curricula individually.
While Delaware officials are targeting implementing the new curriculum in the 2013-2014 school year, the IRSD has been working for two years to train teachers and prepare students for the transition.
• The first and second reading of policy JG: Student Discipline was unanimously approved, which “cleans up the policy to fall in line with current practices,” said Board Member W. Scott Collins. The JG policy states that students must serve the full 90 days of social probation, even if they complete a rehabilitation or suspension program early, after violating district drug and alcohol rules.
• The first reading of ECA: Security Camera System Policy was unanimously approved. Some IR schools already use cameras in public areas, such as hallways, parking lots and cafeterias, as well as district buses. This policy would spell out the district’s official position on camera use.
• The board recognized teachers and staff for their participation in PD 360 videos of outstanding teaching. IR classrooms were featured in professional development videos that teachers nationwide can use in the School Improvement Network. Honorees included Susan Bunting, Sandy Smith, LouAnn Hudson, Jilian Whaley and Audrey Carey at district office; Laura Schneider, Melissa Grunewald, Debra Buffington, Cheryl Carey, Christine Morrison, Heather Cramer at Phillip Showell; Char Hopkins, Donna Toomey, Ondra Massey, Cathy Dorey, Bonnie Crowther, Maggie Carey, Jen Babcock of John M. Clayton; and additional staff at Long Neck Elementary, Millsboro Middle and Sussex Central High schools.
• After submitting the most competitive bid, Dellose & DiFonzo Associates LLC was unanimously approved to provide investigative services to the school district for researching prospective employees.
The next Indian River Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m. at Sussex Central High School.