The New Year will see Delaware City Schools complete an extensive series of building modifications launched in 2020.
The work included improvements or additions to all school buildings, funded by voter approval in 2019 of a $36.5 million bond issue that allowed the district to transfer payments from older, retiring bonds to the new bond.
“We are very excited to be finishing up our construction project,” said Superintendent Heidi Kegley. “Conger Elementary will be receiving additional classroom space where we will have our fifth-graders and will for the first time provide additional classroom space at Conger that we have needed.”
The playground is in the final stages,” she said.
“We just need to add some green space,” she said. “There’s multiple new pieces of playground equipment. And we moved that from the front of Conger to the back of Conger, so it’s expanded significantly.”
The playground will have a full basketball court, separate green space, mulch space and activities for the students, Kegley said.
“In addition, Woodward is the other building that will be finishing up,” she said.
Woodward will have new art and music rooms, which will be ready for the opening of school in August 2022, she said. Woodward’s improvements also include some expanded preschool spaces and more educational academic space, Kegley said.
All elementary school playgrounds will have been improved when school opens in August, she said.
One of the biggest projects was a 2-story addition to Dempsey Middle School, adding 13 classrooms, a larger activity room and an orchestra practice room. That addition also created an opportunity for fifth-graders gifted in math to start their day with morning classes at Dempsey before returning to their home schools for the rest of the day, she said.
Another new feature at Dempsey that will continue in 2022-23 is the creation of a STEM elective for sixth-graders, Kegley said.
“We’re bringing in lots of different components to that course to help students develop an understanding of the additional classes that are available at Hayes (High School) for them looking to move into engineering and other STEM-related courses,” she said.
For a number of years, the state government formula for funding distribution was capped for districts like Delaware, failing to account for the growth the district was experiencing, she said.
That cap equaled an annual income reduction of millions of dollars, compared to the state’s calculated formula for distribution, she said.
Substitute House Bill 110, approved in July, covers the state budget for two fiscal years and includes a Fair School Funding Plan to address that, at least in part, she said.
Melissa Swearington, district treasurer and chief financial officer, said that for fiscal 2022, the calculated formula would total $23.6 million and the amount that would have been received under the cap would have been $14.3 million. The Fair School Funding Plan will increase the amount actually received by $1.6 million for FY 2022, with an additional $1.4 million in FY 2023, she said.
The district will continue to work with state legislators to emphasize the continuing need for such budget relief, said Jennifer Ruhe, district public-information officer.
Also on the minds of district leaders is the fact that they’re entering the third year of the pandemic.
“We know that with our partnership with the Delaware Public Health District and our teams, we continue to look at the protocols we have in place and ensure that we continue having our students in school learning every day,” Kegley said.
Two responses to the pandemic – remote online communication and online resources for students – are continuing.
Some parent-teacher conferences still are conducted remotely, Ruhe said.
For some parents, traveling to a school for a conference is a barrier.
“We can do that meeting online or have you join remotely,” she said. “I think we see that as something we want to continue.”
The district also continues to use Canvas, its online learning-management system that’s accessible to all students in grades K-12, Kegley said.
Each teacher has an online page, she said, and students are able to access it if they need additional information, missed a school day or want to access tutorials or other resources.