School referendum May 18 Projects include wing at high school for Delaware New Tech Academy

By Lynn R. Parks

Voters in the Seaford School District will go to the polls Wednesday, May 18, in a referendum on the district's plan to renovate Seaford High School. Members of the Seaford School Board set the referendum date in a Monday meeting.

Cost of the renovation project would be $36 million. The state would pay 75 percent of that, or $27 million, leaving about $9 million to be paid by local taxpayers.

All of this is pending the final OK from Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery. The district has received preliminary approval from the Department of Education.

Seaford will be the third district in western Sussex County to ask voters to approve a tax hike in the last year. In Laurel, citizens voted 1,444 to 1,241 against a $137 million building project last March, and then in October narrowly approved a revamped $117 million project. Just last week, voters in the Woodbridge School District approved a plan to build a new $52 million high school. The vote was 964 for the project and 653 against.

The Seaford project would add about 66,000 square feet to the existing high school building to accommodate "academies" that the school is setting up in an effort to boost students' state test scores.

The largest part of the construction would be a 50,000-square-foot wing on the front of the high school to accommodate the Delaware New Tech Academy.

New Tech is a California-based program that focuses on project-based learning. Courses in that academy will be available next year. A second, 11,400-square foot addition off the high school chorus room would accommodate the school's planned culinary arts program. And a third addition, 4,600 square feet and on the south side of the building, would be for its planned agriculture program.

The project also includes renovation of the high school to accommodate the district's eighth grade, which will move from the middle school to the high school.

Fifth grades that are now in the district's four elementary schools will be moved to the middle school, alleviating overcrowding in those elementary schools.

Also included in the $36 million is the cost of replacing the bleachers in the high school football stadium. Chief of buildings and grounds Roy Whitaker has said that the district has been advised by its insurance company that the bleachers, which are 50 years old, should be replaced.

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