IRSD: Planning for Future Growth

UPDATE: At a special meeting on April 7, 2016, the Indian River Board of Education approved the submission of Certificate of Necessity (CN) requests to the State of Delaware for the following projects:

  • The construction of a new elementary school on the Ingram Pond property in Millsboro;
  • The construction of a new middle school on the Sussex Central High School property north of Millsboro;
  • The addition of approximately 32 classrooms and the expansion of the cafeteria and gymnasium at Sussex Central High School;
  • The renovation and expansion of the cafeteria at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School in Selbyville;
  • Repairs to a stairwell and mechanical room at Lord Baltimore Elementary School in Ocean View;
  • The possible expansion of parking areas at Selbyville Middle School.

In addition, athletic fields at all schools will be evaluated and the district will seek the replacement of the Howard T. Ennis School building in Georgetown. The Howard T. Ennis project will be a state-funded initiative and not included in any major capital improvement referendum proposed by the Indian River School District.

Certificates of Necessity were submitted to the State of Delaware in August. Cost estimates for the proposed projects will be provided by the district’s architectural firm at a later date. A major capital improvement referendum in Fiscal Year 2017 will be contingent on which construction projects are approved by the state during the CN process.

Additional information will be posted in this space as it becomes available.  

The Indian River School District reached a historic milestone last fall when its total enrollment in Grades PreK-12 exceeded 10,000 students for the first time ever.

The district’s official enrollment for the 2015-2016 school year was 10,171 students. This represents an increase of 329 from last year and 1,385 since 2010. The district’s total enrollment has grown by an average of 4 percent per year during the past decade.

With a total growth rate of 22 percent since 2005, Indian River is now the fifth-largest public school district in the State of Delaware.

“The current rate of growth in the Indian River School District is unprecedented,” Superintendent Susan Bunting said. “This has presented a unique set of challenges, especially in regards to classroom space in our buildings. Many of our schools have come up with creative, albeit temporary, solutions to the space shortage.  We have committed to exploring more permanent solutions to these challenges during the next few years.”  

                      Total District Enrollment
                      2005 - 7,885
                      2010 - 8,786
                      2015 - 10,171
                      2020 - 11,410 (projected)
2023 - 12,201 (projected)
2026 - 12,991 (projected)

CLICK HERE to view a Prezi on the district's growth issue. (Use the arrow buttons to advance the presentation.)

CLICK HERE for information on enrollment projections and school feeder patterns. UPDATED

Last fall, the district reconvened its Futures Committee, which studies short- and long-term resolutions to the enrollment increase and space shortage. The committee’s work will continue through the 2015-2016 school year and beyond.

“It’s imperative that the district be proactive in addressing the growth issue,” Board of Education President James Hudson said. “The Futures Committee has some important work ahead in examining the reasons for the recent growth trend, analyzing future enrollment projections and brainstorming solutions to our space problem.” 

If the district maintains its current rate of growth, enrollment will exceed 11,900 students by 2023. At that pace, most school buildings will exceed their student capacities in the next few years.

CLICK HERE to view our television commercials devoted to this issue. The spots are currently airing on WMDT-47 and WBOC-16.

CLICK HERE to view our recent Delmarva Life segment on WBOC-TV.

CLICK HERE to view a Comcast Newsmakers segment in which Superintendent Susan Bunting discusses district growth and our effort to make students college and career ready.

GE Cafeteria
The cafeteria at Georgetown Elementary School during a busy lunch period.

In addition to the growth in student enrollment, the number of teachers in the district has increased by approximately 13 percent in the last 10 years. It now stands at nearly 800.

Since 2000, the district has completed several major capital improvement projects designed to increase instructional space and provide students with modern instructional amenities. Districtwide, 44 additional classrooms have been built at our schools in the last 11 years. IRSD has also built two new high schools; renovated nine other school buildings; expanded storage space at Selbyville Middle School; constructed a new kitchen, cafeteria and office suite at Lord Baltimore Elementary School; and replaced the roofs on three other schools. Construction of a new kitchen was completed at the Georgetown Elementary/Georgetown Middle School complex last summer.   

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The district spent more than $95 million in voter-approved funding to complete these projects.

“None of our recent construction projects would have been possible without the support of our caring community,” Bunting said. “The district has always had the best interests of our children at heart; it’s obvious that the public shares and supports our mission of providing the best possible learning environment for students.”   

JC stage

The stage being used as a classroom at John M. Clayton Elementary

Despite the recent capital improvement projects, space is still at a premium in IRSD schools. Throughout the district, closets are being used as offices; teachers and specialists are being forced to “float” from room to room while carrying their belongings on a cart; single classrooms are being divided into multiple classrooms; and counselors, specialists and instructional coaches are sharing offices. In some schools, it takes two and half hours to serve lunch to the entire student body. As a result, some students must eat before 11:00 a.m. and others after 1:00 p.m.

The large number of residential communities being developed throughout the district and the possible addition of new jobs in the poultry industry are expected to keep the district’s current growth rate steady during the next five years. 

Beach Club
The Beach Club residential community under construction near Bethany Beach.

“The Futures Committee will take a ‘realm of no bad ideas’ approach to its task of finding solutions to the challenges created by our recent growth,” Hudson said. “We welcome the public’s input during this process and look forward to developing strategies that will responsibly carry our district into the future.”

Anyone with comments or suggestions on this issue is encouraged to contact his or her local Board of Education member. Comments can also be sent to

Site of the future Hawthorne residential development near Georgetown.