CR eyes Freshman Academy: 2-year, 23.4M expansion project underway

Caesar Rodney School Board members, from left, Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, William Bush, Jessica Marelli, David Failing, Michael Marasco and Scott Wilson ceremonially break ground on a high school freshman academy construction project. Submitted photo/CR School District

CAMDEN — Contingent on the weather, of course, Caesar Rodney High will have another 60,000 square feet of school space to utilize in a couple years.

Earlier this month, ground was broken to start a two-floor construction project designed to create a Ninth Grade Freshman Academy with 36 classrooms. The expansion is scheduled to be done in August 2020.

Site work is being done by Lincoln-based Richard Y. Johnson & Son and Kent Construction Company in Smyrna is building the academy and an addition. The $23.4 million project was financed through a 2015 Caesar Rodney referendum that also brought state funding.

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald said while the roughly 2,000-student high school populace isn’t expected to have significant growth in the coming years, current available space has led to 15 floating teachers and a need for more permanent classrooms.

With the additions, CR can offer new programs and expand others, Dr. Fitzgerald said. The school’s ROTC program need double the space it has existed with, according to the superintendent, and the culinary arts students and staff are cramped as well.

The district hopes to expand a Future Teachers Program in conjunction with the Delaware Department of Education, and a Delaware Technical Community College-related program is also a priority.

“This will allow new programs to flourish,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.

The freshman academy will better host block scheduling for high school newcomers in a year that’s deemed critical to academic success moving forward. A positive acclimation to high school indicates a much more likely path to graduation and proper preparation for success in life after that.

“While some student are ready for advanced classes from the start, others need to more time and attention to make that adjustment,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “This allows staff to spend more time with them in what is often a make or break year.”

Dr. Fitzgerald said he would prefer to create a sixth grade academy for students introduction to middle school as well.

“There is some merit to (freshmen) having the same homeroom, traveling the same hallways and having school mentors in the same part of the school,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.

The freshman academy and addition will be connected to the existing high school building and students won’t travel outdoors to reach the other part of school.

“This is not an attempt to isolate the ninth-graders but an attempt to stretch out the school,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.

The referendum passed by a 1,935 to 1,171 vote and the district established four categories to increase space, improve learning spaces, address aging buildings and infrastructure and improve athletic facilities. While sports practice space was lost due to the land-locked nature of CR’s area, two new turf fields were created as well for all programs to use.

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