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An Important Message From IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele
An Important Message From IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele
Posted on 03/26/2019

March 21, 2019

Dear IRSD Community,

The Indian River School District will host a major capital improvement referendum on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. This is an extremely important initiative in which the district will seek voter approval for the construction of a new Sussex Central High School, an eight-classroom addition at Indian River High School and a four-classroom addition at Selbyville Middle School. These projects are necessary due to a large increase in enrollment during the past seven years. This rate of growth is projected to continue for several more years, creating a severe shortage of classroom space.

Since 2011, district enrollment has grown by 1,826 students to its current total of 10,697. During the next six years, we expect to add 1,700 additional students, bringing our total enrollment near 12,000. What is the effect of this growth? To put it simply, our schools are running out of classroom space. The problem is especially severe at Sussex Central High School, where nearly 1,700 students are currently housed in a building designed for 1,500. By 2024, the school’s enrollment will be more than 1,900. We are already in a position where we will have to utilize eight outdoor portable classrooms at the facility next year. As many as eight additional portables will be needed at Sussex Central in the years that follow.  In addition to a lack of classroom space, common areas such as the cafeteria, auditorium and hallways at Sussex Central are no longer large enough to accommodate the student population. The school may soon be forced to add more lunch periods, which will result in some students eating lunch earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Several teachers at the facility currently do not have classrooms and are forced to move from room to room while carrying their possessions on a cart. Portable classrooms will also be needed at Selbyville Middle School and North Georgetown Elementary School next year.

There are numerous drawbacks to portable classrooms. The units are expensive to lease and must be outfitted with electricity, sidewalks and other amenities. They expose students to inclement weather as they walk to and from class. And most importantly, they severely compromise the safety and security of students and staff. Expenses associated with portable classrooms must be paid through operational funds, thereby diverting funding from other resources.  

Building a new Sussex Central High School will create a ripple effect that will allow the district to repurpose two other buildings to further relieve overcrowding. Millsboro Middle School will move into the existing Sussex Central High School building and the existing Millsboro Middle School will be converted into an additional elementary school. This plan will save taxpayers more than $11 million when compared to major capital improvement proposals considered in 2016. We will also alleviate overcrowding through the construction of only one new building. The proposed new high school will be built on land that is already owned by the school district, providing additional savings to taxpayers.

The Indian River School District is committed to providing students with the best possible educational environment, but to do so we need the public’s assistance.  The referendum’s proposed tax increase will be phased in over 4 years reaching a maximum debt service tax increase of approximately $69 in 2023.  Due to previous bonds reaching completion, the debt service rate will drop $0.24 beginning in 2024 through 2029, which will result in a decrease of $48 in the debt service tax.  We believe this is a small price to pay to remedy our overcrowding problems and enhance the safety of our students. Our district has reached a crossroads where we can no longer rely on short-term solutions to solve our space shortages. We sincerely hope you will support the referendum on May 7.

For more information about the referendum, visit irsd.net/referendum or call the Referendum Hotline at (302) 436-1079. Thank you for supporting our students.

Mark Steele
IRSD Superintendent