Plans to construct a new elementary school in the Red Clay School District were approved last night by a vote of 11-1.
The new elementary school will be built on a 17-acre site at 2025 Graves Road, just off of Newport Gap Pike, near Grace Lutheran Church, and will have a capacity of 600 students in kindergarten to fifth grade.
The 69,552-square-foot school will be named for William "Buzzy" Cooke Jr., a longtime administrator in the district who most recently served as president of Brandywine Springs School.
Councilman Jea Street (D-Wilmington South) was the lone vote against the plan.
When asked by Council President Chris Bullock if he had comments, Street said that he had "a whole lot of comments."
"All this does is enhance segregation, disenfranchise the city [of Wilmington], and guarantee that the achievement gap continues to be just that, a gap," Street said.
He said that Red Clay School District has room in city schools, such as Highlands Elementary School, Warner Elementary School, Evan G. Shortlidge Academy, and maybe even in the William C. Lewis Dual Language Elementary School. But instead, the district continues to build and renovate.
Instead, he said, they built North Star Elementary School, and they went to "extraordinary" renovations in Brandywine Springs School.
"There are new schools being built in the county," Street said, but "children in the city under so-called choice programs don't have a choice to attend these new schools because there's no transportation provided.
"They're going to build new facilities, new schools in the county and ignore the city—it's fundamentally unfair. I can't support this or anything like it."
Richard Smith, the Delaware state president of the NAACP, agreed with Street during public comment that they want to continue to disenfranchise the African-Americans in the city of Wilmington.
"It's time to stop [disenfranchisement]," he said, either by a lawsuit or by going to the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Education] and seeing what can be done.
Patti Nash, the Public Information Officer for the Red Clay School District, said the district has by no means ignored the city.
"The bulk of the money from capital referendums in the last 15 years have gone to renovating older schools rather than building new ones," she said. "In 2008, $20 million was approved for this new school but there was $100 million for renovations in older schools, specifically in the city."
She also said the Graves Road location was chosen for the new elementary school "based on the neighborhood schools law.
"We built the school where the population was growing," Nash said.