Laurel School District Capital Projects Bring Controversy - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Laurel School District Capital Projects Bring Controversy

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LAUREL, Del. – The troubles continue for the Laurel School District.

Teachers' requests for contract negotiations are still up in the air, despite months of pushing, and now a new controversy has some teachers, parents, and community members up in arms.

"It's just very disappointing that they're not listening to the citizens of Laurel," says Chris Shirey, a parent in the district.

Four years ago in Laurel, the city held two referendums. One included a referendum for a new middle-high school and a new elementary school, along with a new stadium. Residents reportedly voted against the stadium, but when they brought the two schools back to referendum, they passed.

Now, four years later, the school board is moving forward with the stadium because the school construction came in under budget.

"There was built into the Laurel Middle-High School referendum the possibility of alternates whenever the bid went out, and the bid included certain alternates for classrooms, track and field space and things like that," says John Ewald, superintendent of the Laurel School District. "Those alternates came in, and then thanks to a competitive bid season, we were able to maintain a surplus of fund."

With that fund, Ewald says they decided to use the money to add stadium seating and a press box to the track and field space that was technically included in the referendum. He says the excess money could only be used for construction. However, some residents still feel they've been misinformed.

"Some of those items can't be transferred and I understand that, and I think the majority of parents do understand that," says Bonnie Elliott, a parent in the district. "I think there's just a lot of questioning about how things are being done. How can we build a new stadium if we didn't vote on this in the original referendum?"

To add to the controversy, the district plans to tear down Laurel Middle School to make way for the new elementary school. Some residents say they were told the historic building would only be partly demolished, but Ewald says that was never in the referendum.

"It was one of the first schools built in Laurel," says Elliott. "What was originally stated is being changed and it's without the community's knowledge."

Some residents fear the new elementary school will not address the needs they currently have, including classroom space and more bathrooms. Some parents are reportedly considering taking their children out of the school if they have not already.

"They don't want to pull their kids out we don't want to pull their kids out but they don't feel they're being heard," says Elliott. "We can't afford to lose more kids we're already down."

"I had a daughter who's in third grade but she's now going to a Christian school," says Shirey. "We need to sit down together and work as a group."

However, the chances of making any kind of agreement do not look likely. Ewald says that the plans are set in place, and the community forums are simply for discussion and to clear up any uncertainty.

"This is a great opportunity for community input and I'm looking forward to serving the students and the community and the district," says Ewald.

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