William Henry alumni relieved that school name will remain

DOVER — With the approval of two new middle school designs for Capital School District, a long-range facilities plan is in motion.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, that brought concerns about what it meant for William Henry Middle School.

For the group of alumni who attended, it was a relief that the name would remain intact, said Alfreda Fisher-Dean, a class of 1964 alumna of William Henry Comprehensive High School.

“We’re so happy to know that the school board is not going to get rid of William Henry’s name,” she told the board.

Ms. Fisher-Dean said the school’s namesake is William W.M. Henry, the first black physician in Dover.

The school is part of a plan that would see a repurposing of its current use, but not its name, said board member Sean Christiansen.

Mr. Christiansen explained that, as part of the plan, there would be development of two early childhood centers, at Fairview Elementary School and East Dover Elementary School; renovations to Central Middle School to eventually accommodate grades one through five students from East and Fairview.

The dual middle schools located at Pat Lynn Drive — which are slated for completion in 2023 — will house grades six through eight. Dover High School will continue to educate students in grades nine through 12.

He said the district has been working on securing state funding, without going out to referendum, “to renovate and restore the [William Henry] as it was in the 1960s, including upgrades to the HVAC and electrical system and even the planetarium.”

The building would be split, for use by the Kent County Secondary Intensive Learning Center Program and Kent County Community School.
KCSILC currently rents warehouse space. KCCS already has a connection to William Henry, Mr. Christiansen said, and is the “fastest growing student population.”

“This building will include shops and life skills areas to assist our students in becoming contributors to our society,” he said of KCSILC, adding, “These two schools will be sectioned off, but will allow both to have amenities they currently do not have, like a gym, a cafeteria and more classrooms to grow in the future.”

Mr. Christiansen added that, as with Booker T. Washington Elementary School, the community will be involved in the school’s evolution.

William Henry Comprehensive School, opened in September 1952, was founded during segregation. The school closed after the 1965-66 school year, after the Supreme Court ruling to integrate schools, according to research collected by alumna Anita McDowell Boyer.

Dressed in the high school’s color, maroon, Ms. Fisher-Dean added that the alumni did “accept that you all went to blue and white,” but were concerned about the potential name change.

“The school has had several names since it’s been occupied — William Henry Comprehensive High School, William Henry Middle School — and may one day be changed to William Henry School to go along with the shift in the district, but [it] will not lose the historic prestige of being named after William W. M. Henry,” said Mr. Christiansen.

“Please rest assured, the board of education has not, is not, and, as far as I’m concerned while on the board of education, will not consider calling the building located at 65 Carver Road anything but William Henry.”