After weeks of consideration, the ConcordHS.xyz Editorial Board has decided to support the Brandywine School District Referendum on Mar. 23. We did not come to this decision lightly. In the last month, we have met with Superintendent Holodick and had numerous conversations with the district. We have also consulted with teachers, parents, and students to make an informed decision.
Let’s first examine each piece of the referendum. The Capital portion of the Referendum is common sense. Badly needed renovations will be made to Brandywine High School, Carrcroft Elementary, and Claymont Elementary. These renovations will include improvements for students with disabilities as well HVAC upgrades that will make student life easier. The old Burnett School will also be torn down. This is crucial since it is terribly outdated, not currently in use, and is an eyesore to the city. Also, taxes will not be increased for these capital upgrades because bonds will be issued to pay for them. Therefore, we support the Capital portion of the referendum resolutely.
The Operating portion of the Referendum is also very important. It will fund many of the programs that make the Brandywine School District special. They include strings/orchestra for grades 4-12, AVID at all middle and high schools, the highly successful BSD STEM program, the Gifted program for grades K-8, as well as extracurricular and after-school offerings, including organizations such as TSA, DECA, Science Olympiad, and others. We cannot allow these programs to have their already limited funding cut. As active members of the district, we have taken advantage of the many programs available here in the District and recognize their importance to a student’s development and education. The Operating portion of the Referendum will also cover staffing costs. If the referendum fails, there is the potential for staffing cuts. We find that to be unacceptable. We cannot afford to have any of our hard working teachers, cafeteria workers, custodians, or administrators to be laid off. We have spoken with teachers who have been let go twice due to a referendum failure. Not only will their lives be affected, but so will the life of every student in the district. Class sizes could grow larger or class options such as Honors or AP could diminish. As members of a school where some classes have 30 or more students, we cannot let more cuts occur. That is why we unequivocally support the Operating portion of the Referendum.
The last, and perhaps most controversial, portion of the Referendum is the Turf Fields Project. Two turf fields will be built at each of the three high schools - Concord, Brandywine, and Mt. Pleasant, over a period of three years. According to the District, the project has been spearheaded by members of the community and will benefit BSD athletes, cheerleaders, band members as well as members of local sports leagues including Brandywine Warriors, Concord Soccer and Brandywine Lacrosse. The current natural grass fields are often unplayable due to weather conditions. This makes it clear that the turf fields would provide definite benefits. However, we question whether or not students prefer artificial turf to natural grass. We recognize that some of the other schools in the community have artificial turf, and the District must remain competitive with what they offer to their students. We also expressed our concern about allegations of cancer risk associated with artificial turf. The district repeatedly assured us that they will be conducting intense research over what materials will be safe for students. Dr. Holodick stressed the District’s commitment to common sense measures like not using old tires as the infill - which are used elsewhere - when installing these turf fields. They will have more than a year to conduct this research since the first fields will not be built until the summer of 2017. They will also consult with the University of Delaware, Appoquinimink School District and multiple private schools which already have artificial turf fields installed. Also, the cost of the turf fields will be relatively small in comparison to that of the Operating portion, and the additional tax increase for the turf fields will disappear completely after three years. Because of these assurances, we support the Turf Fields Project.
Finally, we here at ConcordHS.xyz would like to reflect on what can happen when a referendum fails. In the case of Christina School District last year, it failed twice. As a result, the school district made drastic cuts to staff and programs. Students, teachers, and parents alike suffered greatly, and an already struggling school district was brought to the brink. Suddenly, a quality education was not a guarantee. We here in the Brandywine School District are lucky to live in a place where students can get an excellent education, and have the support of countless programs and amenities along the way. That is something we sometimes take for granted. And it is something that we cannot let slip away. This is why the ConcordHS.xyz Editorial Board urges all BSD community member to Vote YES on the Referendum this Wednesday, March 23.
Must be 18 years or older to vote
Live in the Brandywine School District
Bring photo ID
Polls will be open 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
List of polling places as well as additional information on the Referendum can be found at brandywineschools.org/Page/208