Fall 2003 Opening
NOTE: Sussex Beat is a mix of news, analysis and commentary by Eric Magill, publisher of Sussex County Online.
This 42-acre property off Route 9 on the road to the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center will be the site of the Delmarva Christian High School. Below, a map of the site and Lynn Moore, secretary of the group building the school.
What began as casual dinner conversation seven or eight years ago moves a step closer to reality next month when Delmarva Christian Schools Inc., a non-profit organization set up to establish a Christian high school in Sussex County, settles on a 42-acre site off Route 9 in Georgetown.
Lynn Moore, Secretary of Delmarva Christian Schools, said the group will settle on the property owned by Harold and Virginia Short on Jan. 4, 2001. The site, on the road to the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center and across Route 9 from the CHEER Center, has been annexed into the Town of Georgetown.
Moore said the organization plans to break ground this spring or summer on the eventual 170,000 square foot facility. The group originally hoped to open in 2002 but Moore said a Fall 2003 opening is more realistic now.
Moore said that he and his wife began discussing the problems of building and financing Christian educational institutions for high school students with other local couples in the early 1990s.
All had been involved with Epworth Christian School in Laurel and had seen how expensive it is to provide a modern education for students needing labs, sports, band, music, drama and other programs not common in grade schools.
"That's quite an expense per student and many times (Christian schools) aren't able to provide quality labs and computers that you have at public schools or even larger private schools," said Moore. "We often talked about how it would be nice to have a regional Christian high school (to address the financing question)."
Starting in April 1999, Moore and 14 others started brainstorming and by November of last year had incorporated Delmarva Christian Schools Inc. as a nonprofit 501-C3 organization.
They signed a contract on the Shorts' 42-acre property not much later and since then, raised nearly $500,000 to pay the entire purchase price plus settlement fees and still have $100,000 left over.
Next up is the construction of the brick, Colonial-style structure. Phase 1 will cost $4.5 million-$5 million, Moore said, and will house about 300 students in 90,000 square feet including a gymnasium. A couple years after Phase I is complete, Phase II will enlarge the building to hold 550 students. Eventually, plans call for a 170,000-square foot structure to house 1,000 students in Grades 9-12.
"We hope to be a supplement to the smaller, private, church-related schools in the area so they can go to 8th grade and then feed into us," said Moore. "But we'll also be open to the public at large. We've had a tremendous response so far and don't feel we'll have any problem whatsoever filling 300 and will probably have a waiting list."
The building has been designed by Martin Dusbiber of Design Exchange in Lewes. Robin James, president of the organization's board of directors and a Laurel contractor, will act as the general contractor and overseer.
Moore said the group plans to offset operational costs of the structure by making its facilities open to the public. Facilities will include a 300-seat "cafetorium" facing a stage that could be applicable to smal conferences or a larger convention if the back of the cafetorium, which faces the gymnasium, is used. The gym will seat 1,200 people in the stands and will be able to seat 2,000 with chairs on the floor.
The school will provide college preparatory classes, general education courses, and trades in such disciplines as culinary arts, drama, theatre, agric-business, computer technologies, day care, health care, and civil criminal justice.
Extra-curricular activities will include sports for girls and boys including baseball, softball, basketball, wrestling, soccer, field hockey, football and tennis.
Moore said the school plans to acquire public Christian certification in addition to certification through Middle States. Teachers will be paid based on experience. Moore expects an average teacher's salary of $35,000 a year. Moore said class sizes will vary but that the student-teacher ratio will be 20:1. Teachers will have to be certified or at least experienced in the trades they teach.
"We want to be a multi-facted type school," said Moore.
Moore said tuition at the school is projected at $3,500 per year if the organization is successful in renting its facilities. He said another factor in keeping tuition that low will be the organization's ability to raise money for construction as opposed to borrowing. The group hopes to raise 60 to 70 percent of the construction cost.
"If we have to borrow too much, tuition will have to go up," he said.
Besides James and Moore, the other board members are:
Moore said Delmarva Christian Schools Inc. also intends to appoint an advisory board of community members from around Sussex County to "bounce ideas off of" in quarterly meetings.
"We want to be able to provide a quality education," said Moore, "not only academically, but also with a spiritual foundation.
To that end, Moore said students will be required to take one course per year in Bible or Biblical Studies or "something to do with Christianity itself." The school will also require community service hours in the summers between 10th and 11th grades and 11th and 12th grades, Moore said.
Moore said the school expects to draw from areas outside of Sussex County, such as Federalsburg and Berlin, Md., and north of Milford to Dover. "We started out with Sussex Christian School but went with a larger concept to be more of a regional high school," said Moore.
Anyone interested in helping the organization can call 302-856-4040. Contributions to the construction fund can be mailed to Delmarva Christian Schools Inc., P.O. Box 655, Georgetown, DE 19947.
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