Capital School District voters Tuesday night gave administrators what they wanted in the form of additional cash for new schools.
Capital School District teachers and administrators exploded into cheers and hugs Tuesday night as unofficial results showed a three-part bond referendum had been passed by district voters by a two-to-one margin.
The celebrations actually began about 15 minutes before Doris J. Young, director of Kent County’s elections office made the announcement at about 8:42 p.m., as copies of the ballot results, posted to the outside of the polls, had been emailed to teachers waiting in her office.
Such a practice is, Young said later, completely legal.
Residents of the school district were asked to vote on a question about raising taxes to pay for two new middle schools.
That issue passed 1,746 to 801, or 69% to 31%.
The second asked for an additional tax increase to pay for renovations at existing schools, to include technology upgrades.
That question passed 1,659 to 745, also 69% to 31%.
In public meetings held to explain the plan, District Superintendent Dan Shelton said that while taxes would go up for several years as the money was collected, they eventually would go back down slightly.
A third question asked for a permanent tax hike to fund increased operating expenses.
That issue passed 1,661 to 862, or 66% to 34%.
Shelton said he understood why people might be reluctant to raise their own taxes, but that the referendum means, “We’ll be able to have schools that we’re proud of, we’re going to be able to have schools that have the things that our students need and by having that slight increase in the operating referendum, that slight increase in operating money will allow us to continue the programs we have already started and strengthen them, and most importantly, get technology in the hands of our students.”
While some may automatically reject the idea of tax increases out of hand, many more understand what they mean in this case.
“So, while some people say, ‘Well, if it’s taxes, then I say no,’ most people really look at the facts and if you looked at the facts, this just made good sense,” he said. “And we developed it with the help of all the people in the community.”
Turnout at the five polls throughout the district was reported heavier than normal throughout the day.
Central Middle School Principal Shan Greene was anxious but confident before the numbers were announced.
“I’m excited,” she said. “When this goes through, it means I’ll get a new building.”
The district has plans to construct two new middle schools as separate buildings on the former site of Dover High School on Pat Lynn Drive. Those buildings would have the capacity to house about 800 students each; they would be connected by a central area that would house mutual-use facilities such as an auditorium as well as a kitchen that would serve cafeterias in both schools.
Having the two new schools means teaching practices for grade levels below high school would be reconfigured and many students would be attending different schools.
The building housing Green’s Central Middle School would be converted to an elementary school, with minor renovations to install additional bathrooms for young students. Built in the 1920s, historic building eventually would undergo a complete rehabilitation under a future referendum effort.
Students in grades 1-5 now at Fairview Elementary and East Dover Elementary would move to the renovated building, which would be rechristened the Central Elementary School.
All other first- through fifth-grade students would remain at their current schools.
Fairview and East elementary schools then would become home to preschoolers and kindergarten students.
The district’s special needs and behaviorally-challenged students in the Kent County Community School and the Kent County Intensive Learning Center will move to the building now housing the William Henry Middle School.
Renovations at William Henry would restore industrial shops installed while it was a high school. The shops will help students there be better prepared for the job market, Shelton added.
All CSD students in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grades would attend the as-yet-unnamed middle schools.
The state already has committed just under $64 million to the construction project; district residents were asked to fund an additional $47,303,000 through 2026.
Young later said the ballot results included all absentee votes, and that the official results would be certified later in the week.