As maintenance issues persist, Sussex Tech seeks new space

Sussex County Technical School continues to search for a replacement school building for its 60-year-old campus in order to save taxpayers millions of dollars in maintenance costs, according to school district officials.

“We remain very concerned about the condition of the building and the campus. Making repairs as problems develop is like slapping a Band-Aid on a severely bleeding wound,” said Superintendent Stephen Guthrie. “We will apply again next year to try to meet our obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, as building a replacement school will save at least $24 million over renovation.

Over the last several years, the countywide vocational-technical school district has spent $14 million on maintenance and improvements, including roof repairs, renovations of technical areas, security upgrades, and an overhaul to one of multiple HVAC systems.

“We will continue to serve our 1,250 high school students and 2,800 adult education students with a high-quality education,” Guthrie added. “However, that will become more difficult as years go by without a replacement school. Our Sussex County students deserve the same quality educational experience as enjoyed by Kent and New Castle students.”

The most recent repair included a washout at a major parking lot that cost $70,000 to replace 170 feet of collapsed terra-cotta stormwater pipe.

“We are wasting money on critical repairs that could be spent on new HVAC or carpentry tools, updated computer equipment, or additional teachers. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road and throwing good money after bad,” Guthrie said. “A building that fails to meet modern standards in many categories is a building that hampers and hurts the education of our students.”

The district had applied to the Delaware Department of Education for a certificate of necessity, the first step in obtaining state support and funding for the building project, for a $150.5 million replacement school.

The school was not selected to move forward this year, due to other projects ranking higher in the state’s criteria.

“Sussex Tech students deserve a school that trains and educates them for their futures, and Sussex County employers deserve students who are learning their craft not distracted by leaking roofs, broken heating systems, or holes in the parking lot,” said Board President Warren Reid. “This is disappointing, but we remain optimistic that Sussex County recognizes the value of a high-quality career-technical education and will continue to support this project.”

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