Christina Board Says Screw You To Large Class Sizes In Epic Vote!

School districts across Delaware are faced with a choice each November: do they take a class-size waiver for kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade allowing more than 22 students or do they look out for the well-being of those kids and fail to pass the waiver?  For the Christina School District, their board said no to the waiver, voting 4-3 against it.

Board members John Young, Elizabeth Paige, Angela Mitchell and Harrie Ellen Minnehan voted no while members Fred Pulaski, George Evans, and Meredith Griffin voted yes.  Pursuant to Delaware State Code, Title 14, section 1705, school districts and charter schools must decide on these waivers, when applicable, by December 1st of each year.  Any funding for extra staff, should a board decide not to take the waiver, comes from the local share of funding.  It doesn’t always mean all classes will be 22 or under.  It could mean an extra paraprofessional comes into the room which decreases the student to teacher ratio.

This evening, Red Clay’s boards will vote on this action as well.  In an earlier version of this story, I noted Capital would be voting on class-size waivers.  In looking at their Board Docs, none of their elementary schools exceed 22 students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade so no vote is necessary.

For Christina, the elementary schools affected by this will be Brookside, Downes, Elbert-Palmer, Keene, Leasure, Maclary, Marshall, and Stubbs.

I am always against overstuffed classrooms.  It is not good for the students, the teachers, or the schools.  Christina’s board has never said no to the class-size waiver until their vote last evening.  Kudos to the no voters for being the voice of reason!

Capital School District’s VERY BOLD Long-Term Plans

The Capital School District has mighty plans for the district!  As part of their ongoing strategic plan, the district will discuss potential building and grade configurations at their board meeting this evening, beginning at 7pm.

While these plans are not set in stone, there is serious discussion about what the district will physically look like in the long run.  Referendum haters may want to relax because the plans I am about to discuss are long-term and could take twenty years to reach the finale.  But current plans call for sweeping building changes, grade configurations, and a new way of looking at middle school.  The district began earnestly looking at these changes last fall and held staff and community forums earlier this month after a facility master plan was presented to the board.

With the proposed changes, two current elementary schools would disappear and another would be renovated. Fairview and Town Pointe Elementary Schools would be demolished and Dover East would get a new building.  Both plans call for a potential expansion at Dover North.  Where things get very interesting are the plans for the existing middle schools, William Henry and Central Middle.  Central Middle would become an elementary school.  Since William Henry is connected to Kent County Community School, the plan is to use room in William Henry to house a growing high-needs special needs population.  This does not mean all special education students in the district would be going to this potential facility!

For the middle schools, they would be two separate schools but joined by a common area.  Potential plans would called for shared resources between the two such as a cafeteria and large gym.  But it would also allow the district to have Career-Technical education programs in one school and arts programs in another.  But since the schools would be in the same location, it would be difficult for diversity issues to come up since they are both there.  The district is looking at potential magnet programs in the future.  The proposed site for the new middle schools would be on the property of the old Dover High School.

Those are the major changes.  Other options call for an early childhood center attached to Dover East and potentially one next to Booker T. Washington Elementary School.  Both of the potential options would call for what is known as a “Main Campus” which would house the expanded Kent County Community School, Booker T. Washington (which holds the district Delaware Autism Program inclusion program) and the proposed early childhood center.  As well, other space in William Henry could house the Transition program for students with high needs between the ages of 18-21.  The district now leases space in a building across from the Department of Education in Dover.

In terms of grade configurations, the plan is to have the following: early childhood centers would hold Pre-K to Kindergarten, elementary schools would hold 1st-5th grade, middle schools would have 6th-8th, and high school would be 9th-12th grades.

So how much is all of this going to cost?  Probably millions and millions of dollars.  But not all at once.  The goal is to look at the projected growth of the district based on a capacity of 600 students in each elementary school, 750 in the middle schools, and 1,800 for the high school.  Keep in mind, this is a twenty year plan.  Things could very well change during the next two decades.  Projections are good but you never know when a huge business could come to Dover or Kent County which could change all the numbers.  But I like this plan.  I like the idea of sharing resources at the middle school level.  Having the “Main Campus” could also allow for that which could save the district tons of money.  Of course, any new construction or renovation costs tons of money but everything old must one day become new!

OPTION A

option-a

OPTION B

option-b

As the above diagrams show, Hartly Elementary School, Dover South Elementary School and Dover North Elementary School would have the least amount of changes.  The revamped district would actually have one less elementary school than present, but the populations in each school would change based on removing Kindergarten and adding 5th grade.  As a citizen of Dover, this will definitely be one to watch!  When the strategic plan process began last year I strongly advocated for changing the middle school grade configuration to what they are now proposing.  To hear the plans in more detail, come on out to the board meeting at the district office!

Mapleton Charter Submits Major Modification To Move To Kent County, Lower Enrollment & Change Name

At yesterday’s Delaware State Board of Education meeting, it was announced the Mapleton Charter School of Whitehall submitted a major modification request on 9/16.  Mapleton is looking to move to Kent County, lower it’s enrollment and change it’s name.  While the last is not part of a major modification, the Charter School Office at the DOE is rolling it all into one big request.  The school is scheduled to open in the 2016-2017 academic year.

From my recollection, this would be the first time a charter has switched locations to a different county in Delaware.  Kent County currently has six charter schools: Campus Community, Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Positive Outcomes, First State Military Academy and Early College High School.  Three of them are in Dover, two in Smyrna, and one in Camden-Wyoming.  The only other charter school south of the Caesar Rodney School District is Sussex Academy, in the heart of Indian River School District.

Jennifer Nagourney, the Director of the Charter School Office, said it would be up on the Charter School website, but she also emphasized this is a very large application to which State Board member Pat Heffernan advised Nagourney to “get her reading glasses.”  I can’t wait to see it though.  I would love to know where they are planning to locate in Kent County.  I know Kendall Massett published an editorial on Town Square Delaware over a year ago about needing more charters in Kent and Sussex County.  While the bulk of Delaware’s charters are in New Castle County, and more specifically, Wilmington, two of the new charters that opened this year went on formal review due to low enrollment.  They made it out of that status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mapleton saw this happening and started making new plans.

I’m sure we will have more answers next week.  If I were a betting man, I would guess we could say them looking to move to southern Kent County.  But this is all guesswork on my end.  If this were the case, and I’m not saying it is, this could affect enrollment in Caesar Rodney, Lake Forest and Milford school districts the most.  And any location would of course be based on approval by the State Board of Education.  The State Board previously approved their application to begin as a K-2 school, with an enrollment of 100 in each grade.  Each successive year, the school will add the next grade going up to 5th grade in four years for a total of 600 students by 2020.  But of course, if the major modification is approved, their enrollment will be less. And obviously, their Middletown area location would be different.  And they probably don’t want to call it Mapleton Charter School at Whitehall if they aren’t in Whitehall.

Ironically enough, Mapleton’s Chair of their Board of Directors is Dr. Michael Stetter.  Stetter used to work at the Delaware DOE as their Director of Accountability Resources and

Which schools got a D in Special Education in Delaware? Find out here!

I went over which schools got the Big F for special ed yesterday.  Those were schools that managed to have 7% or less of their student population with special education.  Today, I will go over the schools that got a poor D!  These are schools that have 7.1% to 8.5% of their kids with special ed.  Not good no matter how you look at it, but better than an F!

Academy of Dover (Charter): 8.4%

Brandywine Springs School (Elementary): 8.5%

Brookside Elementary School: 8.3%

Castle Hills Elementary School: 7.1%

Concord High School: 7.3%

Delmar Middle School: 7.4%

Downie Elementary School: 7.8%

East Dover Elementary School: 7.1%

Frear Elementary School: 8.4%

Gallaher Elementary School: 7.8%

Hartly Elementary School: 8.1%

Marshall Elementary School: 7.4%

Middletown High School: 8.2%

Mote Elementary School: 7.4%

Oberle Elementary School: 7.6%

Pleasantville Elementary School: 8.5%

Simpson Elementary School: 7.7%

Smith Elementary School: 7.5%

Star Hill Elementary School: 8.4%

Sunnyside Elementary School: 8.5%

Sussex Technical High School: 7.7%

Waters Middle School: 7.7%

West Park Place Elementary School: 7.9%

Only 23 public schools (public, charter and vocational) in Delaware got a D.  Not as bad as the F Club.  Some of you have a very strong chance of getting into the C club or higher during the 2014-2015 Academic Year.  I would make that happen.  You are no Charter School of Wilmington, but you need a great deal of work.  Don’t forget parents, these are based on the Delaware average for special education in our schools, which is at 13.5%.  Some have estimated that as high as 22% of kids in Delaware should be on an IEP due to their exceptionalities.  So as a state, we have a long way to go.