On any given day at Caesar Rodney High School, many students can be found attending class in the cafeteria, the auditorium and the lecture hall due to overcrowding and a shortage of classrooms for teachers.
The Delaware Department of Education establishes a maximum enrollment capacity for each school in the state; this capacity is based on the physical space of the building, the building’s physical resources and the class size of each grade level, as outlined in Title 14 of the state code. Six of Caesar Rodney School District’s 12 schools are over capacity. This includes Caesar Rodney High School, Fifer and Postlethwait middle schools, McIlvaine Early Childhood Center and Frear and Star Hill elementary schools.
Frear has an overage of roughly 60 students, but the other five schools are over by at least 100 students.
Caesar Rodney High School is most affected with a total of 2,039 students in a building that has an enrollment capacity of 1,580.
Because of the overcrowding at the high school, 10 teachers are currently “floating” during the school day, meaning that they don’t have a classroom of their own, and classes are being taught in the cafeteria, lecture hall and the auditorium to compensate for a deficit in classrooms.
“When the high school was built it was understood that there was going to be growth,” Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald said. “It’s just that we’ve reached capacity. We were technically over capacity by the time we opened the school.”
Enrollment numbers at the high school show no signs of letting up, said the district’s Board of Education Vice President William Bush. Kindergarten enrollment figures also offer a glimpse into the future of the district.
“If you look down the chain and look down at the elementary schools and at McIlvaine, you see the wave that ‘s coming,” Bush said.
McIlvaine Early Childhood Center has a capacity of 413 students, but there are currently 533 kindergarteners alone at the school. There are an additional 39 pre-K students and 19 early childhood students.
“McIlvaine was never built for the numbers that it has,” Fitzgerald said. “When the referendum to build McIlvaine was passed, [the Department of Education] never allowed for growth. They told us we could renovate it.”
McIlvaine has the ability to expand more easily than some other schools because the infrastructure necessary to expand is already in place. A pod could be added at McIlvaine, which would offer the school more space with a fairly quick turnaround, said Fitzgerald.
There is also a need for additional classrooms at Charlton School and for additional Charlton classrooms for special needs students in schools throughout the district.
Page 2 of 2 - In order to renovate a facility in the district, Caesar Rodney would need to acquire a certificate of necessity and receive approval from the state before going to a referendum.
If funding were acquired, the district could choose to renovate or expand existing schools. The district also owns 25 acres of land on Briarbush Road in Magnolia, which could be used for the future site of another elementary school. The acreage is not large enough for construction of a middle or high school, unless additional land was purchased, Fitzgerald said.
“The big thing is to forward project − where you see the district, not in five years but in ten years, and where the growth will be. We always said the growth would be in Magnolia. That’s why that land is so important.”
The Caesar Rodney Board of Education will hear a presentation from consultants regarding proposals for potential renovations of schools or land use at its Jan. 21 meeting, according to board member Melody Heavner. The school board has also scheduled a work session to further discuss the matter on Jan. 27. Work sessions are open to the public and are held at the district’s administrative building.