Ground broken on new school at Dover Air Force Base

From left, Lt. Col. Kristen Dahle, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District commander; Jessica Marelli, Caesar Rodney School District Board of Education president; Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.; Kate Rohrer, Kent and Sussex counties, Delaware director for Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.; Col. Joel Safranek, 436th Airlift Wing commander; and Hossam Ibrahim, Dobco, Inc. vice president, break ground for the new Welch Elementary School/Dover Air Base Middle School on Monday. (U.S. Air Force/Roland Balik)

DOVER — It all began with a ceremonial groundbreaking near Dover Air Force Base housing on Monday.

If everything goes according to schedule, the site of that groundbreaking will be occupied by the Major George S. Welch Elementary School in time for the 2021 school year.

The new school that will begin actual construction within the next two months is a $48 million facility that will be administered by the Caesar Rodney School District and will serve around 490 students from kindergarten through the eighth grade who are members of families serving in the military at Dover Air Force Base.

The new Major George S. Welch Elementary School, which will replace the current Maj. George S. Welch Elementary School and the Dover AFB Middle School, is federally funded by the Department of Defense Education Activity and managed through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District, said it was time for a new school at Dover Air Force Base.

“The district is thrilled to partner with Dover Air Force Base and the Department of Defense in the construction of a new Middle/Elementary School on the Base,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “The original building was constructed in 1961 with an addition six classrooms in 1962 and the current Welch Elementary School added in 1964.

“While these buildings have served our students well, when you can no longer repair it’s time to replace and we are pleased to have been included since day one of the project. We look forward to the school’s completion and to continuing our relationship with the base.”

A conceptual view rendering of the new Welch Elementary School/Dover Air Base Middle School was unveiled at the groundbreaking ceremony on Monday. (U.S. Air Force/Roland Balik)

The site for the new building, which will have a footprint of around 105,000 square feet, will be on the football field across the street from the Youth Center and adjacent to the existing elementary and middle schools in base housing.

The current DAFB Middle School building was formerly the Dover AFB High School, but it was shut down in 1980 and its students shifted to Caesar Rodney High School. Most graduates of the middle school now move on to Caesar Rodney.

U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, Col. Joel Safranek, 436th Airlift Wing Commander, Lt. Col. Kristen Dahle, the Philadelphia District Commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Caesar Rodney School District Board of Education President Jessica Morelli were among the dignitaries who participated in Monday’s groundbreaking.

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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