No planning money for new Ennis school in Sussex

 

GEORGETOWN — Indian River School District officials are counting on no planning money in the state’s fiscal year 2018 budget for a new Howard T. Ennis School.

At the June 19 Indian River board of education meeting, district Director of Business Jan Steele told board members that Delaware’s Office of Management and Budget has notified the district that “we will not be getting planning money this next year as we anticipated. The state does not have those additional funds to grant us.”

“Hopefully, and I can’t say we have been promised, but they are suggesting that we would then be eligible for planning money the next year (FY19),” said Ms. Steele.

Essentially, this means there will be an overall delay in the 100-percent state-funded project to replace the outdated Ennis School, which provides special education services for pupils ages pre-school to 21 with significant disabilities within the IRSD and other districts that send students there.

In addition to the delay, state leaders are now considering a second parcel for the school. Both parcels are owned by the state of Delaware as part of the state-managed Stockley Center located near Sussex Central High School.

An initial 61-acre, triangular-shaped parcel at the corner of Avenue of Honor and Patriots Way has been joined by a 28-to-30-acre parcel located across from Sussex Central High School on Patriots Way.

“The legislators have gotten involved and are going to write legislation in the bond bill to transfer whichever property the state sees fit to the district as of June 30,” Ms. Steele said, adding that the district’s certificate of necessity will “be signed after July 1 which gives us a whole other year of acceptance and that way it can be put into the bond bill for next year.”

IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele doesn’t view this as a major setback.

“It gives us that opportunity to narrow this land down and get the transfer, because it has to be done in epilogue language. Once it goes through epilogue then it actually transfers from DHSS (Department of Health & Social Services), where it currently is now, over to the Indian River School District,” Mr. Steele said. “Both are state agencies so it is just a process to go through. No money exchanges or anything like that.”

The new Ennis School project, a proposed 76,500-square-foot facility, carries an estimated price tag of $47 million. It will be completely funded by state money, so a referendum is not required.

“This is significantly bigger because what they needed to do was add at least an additional eight classrooms and there wasn’t room on the property where the Ennis School is currently located to add those rooms,” said Ms. Steele.

Ennis School this past year served about 140 pupils. The current school was built in the early 1970s. “So, you’ve got everything built on the inside according to what the standards were in the 1970s. That is completely different than what it is today,” said Mr. Steele.

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