Commentary: Indian River School District referendum well worth supporting

The Indian River School District Capital Improvement and Current Expense Referendum will be held on Feb. 5.

I have attended several public meetings recently with various groups where Superintendent Steele has presented information pertaining to the need for this referendum. In addition, I have had numerous conversations with community members from across the district, expressing various viewpoints both for and against the referendum. I am encouraged by this because it means that people are interested and want to have a voice in the future of our school district.

Dr. Heather M. Statler

I am both a school board member and a parent of children who attend schools in the district. As such, I invest a great deal of time in the school buildings for events, assemblies and meetings. Although I tend to be fiscally conservative, my personal observations are in part why I am supporting the upcoming referendum.

Overcrowding in the buildings is real. Have you seen the lunch lines at Millsboro Middle School? They are very long. In fact, they are so long that my own children often would prefer to pack their lunch for the simple fact of having more time to sit and eat. If you are unfortunate enough to be at the end of the lunch line, you might only have 10-12 minutes to actually eat your food, return your tray, gather your belongings and start heading to your next class. I feel like we can (and MUST!) do better than this.

My observations at Sussex Central High School regarding lunches have been even more startling. With a current enrollment of 1,661 students in a 1,500-capacity building, the cafeteria is beyond crowded. With the projected enrollment of SCHS in 2024 as 1,940 students, the current structure will never work.

As a result, the proposed short-term answer is to start running five lunches. This means lunch will have to begin at 10 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. It seems outlandish to start lunch so early but there simply is no other solution. In 2024 when we have close to 2,000 students in that building, what do we do then? Start lunch at 9:30 and it’s standing room only?

The above example illustrates only one reason (out of many) that I will be supporting the referendum on Feb. 5. In my opinion, Superintendent Steele and his team have worked diligently over the past two years to put the district on a much better path, which includes the development of strategic planning documents that will help us not only in the short-term but with critical long-term planning needs.

The Indian River School District has a strong legacy and a future full of promise. I encourage you to attend one of the many informational meetings being held throughout the district to learn more. The full schedule can be found at irsd.net/referendum.

Dr. Heather M. Statler is the District 3 representative on the Indian River School District Board of Education.

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