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October 2, 1998     Cape Gazette
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October 2, 1998
 

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10 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, October 2 - October 8, 1998 Cape board eyes construction referendum; hearings beginsoon By Kerry Kester Residents in the Cape Henlopen School District will be asked for" input as the school board begins the process of passing a referen- dum to pay for its long-range cap- ital improvement and new con- struction projects. The district will need to finance more than $20 million for the first of the three- phase plan. The board has scheduled three public hearings to gather informa- tit0 from the Cape Region com- munities: Monday, Nov. 9, Cape Henlopen High School Little The- atre; Thursday, Dec. 3, Rehoboth Elementary School auditorium; and Thursday, Jan. 7, Milton Mid- dle School auditorium. All hear- ings are from 7 to 9 p.m., but the board reserves the option of ex- tending the time if needed. Those who participate in the hearings by representative groups will have 15 minutes to address the boards. Those addressing the board on an individual basis will have up to three minutes to speak. The board is also soliciting written com- ments from the public, which will be copied and forwarded to board members. Written comments sub- mired to the superintendent's of- fice by 3 p.m., three days before the hearing dates, may be read into public record at the time of the hearing. Board members are structuring the hearings for input only. The board is planning to listen to com-- munity viewpoints but will re- serve its discussions for the regu- lar meetings, the fourth Thursday of each month. The board's goal is to complete the hearing and dis- cussion process by the end of Jan- uary, so the board can make a de- cision in February about whether to continue the process. If the public appears supportive and the board determines it will continue the process, its next steps include passing a referendum for a bond bill, getting state approval, hiring an architect, selecting land for the new schools, then bidding and awarding contracts. If the board determines in February that it will proceed, the referendum will go to public vote in May 2000. The innovative, comprehensive proposal was developed by the Long Range Facilities Task Force, composed of community members and Cape district staff, who worked for more than a year to as- sess the district's immediate and long-term needs and create a pro- posal. Phase I, to be completed within the next seven years, calls for erecting two new, identical build- ings for Milton Middle School and Lewes Middle School, both to be located on land west of Route 1; expanding H.O. Brittingham Ele- mentary School; and changing some configurations at Shields El- ementary School and Sussex Ele- mentary Consortium. Phase Ii, to be completed in the next eight to 12 years, calls for adding several new rooms to Cape Henlopen High School, including a cafeteria, media center, gymna- sium and theatre. The existing rooms would be converted to classroom space. Phase III, to be completed in 12 to 19 years, calls for building, a new facility for the Rehoboth ele- Kerry Kester photo Lori Voss, parent of a second-grader at Rehoboth Elementary School, voiced concern to the Cape school board during its Sept. 24 meeting, that the classroom her child is in is poorly ven- tilated, appears to harbor allergenic properties, has no windows for either fresh air or light and has a foul odor. Her child, she said, often leaves school feeling unwell. She said she sup- ports smaller class sizes, but the modified multipurpose room at the school seems to be posing problems. The Rehoboth school site is like many other elementary schools throughout the state: space has been modified to add classrooms because Of the recently passed law requiring smaller class sizes; some of the spaces were never intended to be used as classrooms. The school board is examining options for improving the space in the multipurpose room at Rehoboth for an immediate solution to the problem. The long-term solution could come in the form of a publicly supported initiative to build more schools in the Cape district. Shown are (l-r)Voss, board member Estie Class, board member Allan Redden, board member Tony Streett and Superintendent Suellen Skeen, as they examine the space that now holds three classrooms. mentary and the Lewes elemen- tary programs. It also calls for modernizing the consortium's fa- cility. The plan provides options for expanding educational opportuni- ties, such as through developing a partnership between the high school and higher education'insti- tutions, developing a charter school or creating an alternative school for disruptive students. With new construction, the buildings would be designed to enhance the middle school con- cept, which is based largely on a team-teaching approach. The goal of changing the nature of the facil- ity is to enhance learning and stu- dent performance. The buildings could, for example, be designed with pods instead of traditional classrooms. A new middle school to replace the Lewes building would free space that could be used for the elementary and con- sortium programs. tests and more than 60 percent go on to " that has claimed 18 lives in 10 cases of some form of college, there are many suc- cess stories. But the district is not resting on those laurels, not when there is other impor- tant work at hand. "When we looked at the situatioas of ex- treme violence that have occurred in schools across the nation recently, we de- cided to improve school security measures so we could help prevent such tragedies here," explained Dr. John Kreitzer, the dis- trict administrator who chaired the 16- member School Security Task Force this summer. The Security Task Force was composed of a school board member, school adminis- trators, teachers, student leaders, communi- ty leaders and parents with law enforcement or emergency service experience. The first of the task force's duties, Dr. Kreitzer said, was to acquaint itself with the schoolyard violence since 1993. Dr. Kre- itzer acknowledged that levels of juvenile violence have escalated during the 1990s. But Cape Henlopen School District has not been plagued by the problems elsewhere. In fact, statistics from the 1995-96 school year show Cape's number of disciplinary sus- pensions were about half the state average. Instances of reported violence during that school year involved 0.5 percent of the school population, well below the state and national averages. "Less than 5 percent of our students are any problem at all," Kreitzer explained, "and most of them are either tardy too many times or have-cut too many classes. But there is no doubt that juvenile violence is a problem nationwide, and what happens in the communities is usually reflected in the schools." In July and August, the School Security Task Force examined crisis plans at each of the district schools and made recommenda- tions for proactive and reactive measures. Those recommendations were put into a new school security and crisis plan that went into effect this school year. The new plan focuses on three areas: pre- vention, reaction and follow-up support. Under the new prevention policies students have less time in the hallways between classes; visitors must register at the school of- fice and may not go elsewhere without a flourescent orange pass pinned to their clothes; volunteers must also wear a pass, and staff identification badges are being made for administrators and teachers; only certain doors to school buildings will be accessible from the outside, and those will be monitored by teachers and staff; anonymous reports of suspicious stu- dent activity may be called in to a new se- curity tip line at 644-7904. "One thing that stood out in the case his- tories of otherschools is that after a tragedy occurred, you find out that a few kids knew something was amiss before it happened," explains Dr. Kreitzer. "The anonymous tip line offers those students a chance to pass information along to school officials with- out being fearful of peer pressure." Should a violent situation occur in the school or on school grounds, the crisis plan outlines how students should react, how staff should react and how outside agencies can be enlisted for help. It also stresses a comprehensive follow-up plan in the wake of a violent situation. This aspect of the cri- sis plan will fall squarely upon the shoul- ders of the eight counselors, five psycholo- gists and three social workers within the district. Sally Cordrey, a district administrator who served on the task force, noted that "our counselors are extremely valuable to us normally, and we get a lot of great com- munity assistance whenever there is a prob- lem." Cordrey also praised the work of the task force members, especially those par- ents with law enforcement or emergency experience. Dewey Beach Police Chief Raymond Morrison, a task force member with three children in district schools, said he is en- couraged by the district's efforts to tighten security and form a crisis plan for violent situations. "My experience is that any vio- lence left unchecked tends to escalate," Morrison said this week. "What the district has done is put some protections in place, some safeguards, to keep that from happen- ing. As a parent, I'm very pleased with that." By Jim Cresson Cape Henlopen School District has long provided a quality learning environment that produces a high rate of student achiev- ers. Now, thanks to the summer work of a dedicated and resourceful task force, the district has taken a giant step toward mak- ing all of its school environments more se- cure and safer for students, teachers and staff. In a relatively affluent district where 73 percent of high school students take SAT scope of the national problem by reviewing case histories of schoolyard shootings in places such as Bethel, Ala.; Pearl, Miss.; West Paducah, Ky.; and Jonesboro, Ark. Those incidetits, which all occurred in 1997, were part of a larger national tragedy KREITZER Cape district makes strides in attaining safety and security