Capital district mulls grade-level realignment


Central Middle School students head to their school bus during dismissal in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Central Middle School students head to their school bus during dismissal in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — There are several gears involved, churning all at the same time, in helping the Capital School District update its strategic plan for the future.

One of those many different areas, potential grade-level reconfiguration among all of the schools in the district, was discussed in a Community Forum at William Henry Middle School on Tuesday night.

Capital School District Dan Shelton discussed five different options with around 20 members of the community regarding possible future reconfiguration of grades and school alignments throughout the district.

“It’s our intention to either in the month of December or the month of January to bring a recommendation to the board regarding a grade-level reconfiguration direction,” Mr. Shelton said.

“Now, that will be a recommendation that the Facility Master Plan is also considered. So, it won’t be a ‘this is what we’re doing’ kind of thing. Once we do the Master Plan, we will have this input, because all of our committees are working in parallel.”

The current grade-level alignment in the Capital School District has pre-kindergarten through fourth grade (elementary schools), fifth and sixth grades (William Henry), seventh and eighth grades (Central Middle) and ninth through 12th grades (Dover High School) in separate buildings throughout the district.

Among the most popular options at Monday night’s forum was the Traditional format, where pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grades and ninth through 12th grades would be separated among different facilities.

Establishing an Early Childhood Center for the district’s pre-kindergarten and kindergartner’s, and then separating students in first through fifth grade, sixth through eighth and ninth through 12th grade was also a popular selection.

“I like the Traditional format,” said Crystal Hodge, of Hartly. “I like it because of the individuals in the school being able to know the children better, so there’s less of a transition.

“I don’t believe fifth graders are really ready to move up. I believe that sixth, seventh and eighth grades are better together. Overall, I do think it’s a great thing that the district is considering making changes.”

Currently, around 75 percent of the school districts in Delaware utilize the Traditional format – all of them except the Capital School District, Smyrna, Delmar and Laurel.

“I’m kind of split between the Traditional and Pre-K formats,” said Milissa Wood, of Dover. “With the Traditional, I like that there’s less transitioning.

“I like that the transitioning is happening at a place where it makes sense and not just transitioning for the sake of transitioning.”

Mr. Shelton said that the district is reaching out to the community in hopes to getting a sense of direction.

In step with possible grade-level alignment, the Capital School District has also been working on Facility Master Planning (including physical plant, capacity, potential uses), population studies and historic preservation of schools.

Mr. Shelton said that factors from all of these different areas will eventually come together to help decide what’s best for the district’s future.

“We have a direction and it’s been pretty consistent everywhere you go,” he said. “Those [Traditional and Early Childhood Center] are the two models that people want us to really look at.”

For now, it is just a matter of receiving as much input as possible.

One thing’s for certain, Mr. Shelton said, the Capital School District will not be going back to a kindergarten through fourth grade, fifth through eighth grade and ninth through 12th grade format, since that one was ditched before the current format was put into place.

“This is one conversation about grade-level configuration and as we move forward we can say “What buildings need what?’ and ‘What uses can we use the different buildings for,’” Mr. Shelton said.

“Then there will be the larger conversations and more community forums where we say, ‘This is what we’re thinking, what do you think?’”

It is those kinds of things that will combine to decide the future direction – and grade-level configuration – of the Capital School District.

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