Members of a citizen's committee formed to study the future of the Caesar Rodney School District turned in their report Wednesday night during a special school board meeting held at the W. Reily Brown Elementary School.
The Resource Development Committee, made up of parents, teachers, staff members and district residents, told the board that the district's increasing student population, which is outstripping the number of available classrooms, must be addressed in the near future.
The committee, which was formed in August 2010 with 20 members and then reconvened in February 2013 with 10 members, made suggestions to the board after an intensive review of all facilities in the district, said Kevin Thompson, director of student services for the district.
In short, the panel recommended:
n A public referendum to build an already-planned four-classroom addition at the McIlvaine Early Childhood Learning Center.
n No new elementary school construction; the district should monitor the situation for at least two years and, if necessary, consider redistricting after that time.
n Recognition of overcrowding issues at the Fifer and Postlethwaite middle schools and Caesar Rodney High School and deciding the most prudent way of relieving those problems. Early ideas included building more classrooms at each school or constructing a new middle school near Magnolia.
n Classroom size should not be increased.
n Academic issues should take precedence over expanding or enhancing current athletic facilities.
n Careful management of district funds to avoid cuts in academic programs and complete transparency so the public is aware of how money is collected and spent.
The committee did not include the elementary and middle schools at Dover Air Force Base in their recommendations; although those schools fall under the CR district, their funding is provided through the Department of Defense.
Computer studies have indicated a one percent to two percent growth rate in the district over five years, Thompson said. By 2015, projections indicate the district's middle schools will have approximately 470 students more than they were designed for; the high school will be approximately 400 students over capacity.
The committee also recognized increasing costs, coupled with the loss of state and federal funding, will impact the district's ability to fund new capital projects. Even though the district already is dipping into reserve accounts to maintain current services, future cuts in programs, staff or services will be unavoidable.
Board members must find additional sources of revenue, possibly including a public referendum, committee members advised.