Delaware Gov. John Carney announced Wednesday he will propose the state spend $50 million for a new school in Wilmington.
The new school, currently in the Christina School District, would replace Bancroft Elementary School on the city's East Side.
"If our state is going to be successful...the city of Wilmington has to be successful, and if the city's going to be successful, it can only be successful if the schools in the city are successful."
In the budget, that Carney will submit to the General Assembly next week, the $50 million--on top of $20 million already devoted to city schools--will also include plans to recapitalize Stubbs Elementary as an early childhood center and make substantial upgrades to Bayard Middle School on the city's west side. He said the schools should be paid for entirely with state funds for one big reason.
"Because of the uncertainty around what districts these buildings might be after the commission finishes its work, he said.
Carney said he'll also work to ensure teachers have the resourced they need in the classroom.
"...Which we have tried to provide, and we'll continue to do through our Opportunity Funding which goes to schools across our state for disadvantaged children," he said. "We're going to keep leaning into this issue...until all our children no matter what zip code they live in, no matter what neighborhood they live in have an opportunity to be able to read proficiently at third grade, do math proficiently at middle school, and graduate for whatever is next--whether it's going into the workforce or to college."
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki called it "reassuring" to have an ally in Governor Carney.
"I've never seen anybody so committed to this issue of educating our kids," he said.
Three years ago when Purzycki came into office he had a litany of issues to deal with from crime and blight. Then, three years into the job, he had an epiphany:
"If we don't get our arms around educating our kids, where we build a big consensus about how we educate our kids, how we put our arms around our kids, how we support these kids and their families, then nothing else that we can do matters. You can't have a conversation about criminal behavior and ignore the conversation about our schools; we have to have a conversation about what happens when the kids aren't in school...we should be having a conversation about, frankly, the burden that our system puts on the kids in the city that it doesn't put on everybody else as well," Purzycki.
State Senator Elizabeth "Tizzy" Lockman, who represents Wilmington, called these next steps major and a testament that the state is engaging in the city's future.
"But a school, of course, is not just brick and mortar, classrooms and playgrounds, it's really the glue that binds the community together--a beacon in the community, symbolizing our collective hope for a brighter future...I hope we can build on this momentum and continue to invest in the children who need it most."
The move is part of on-going, major investments by the state to improve Christina schools.
"I'm excited about the opportunity we have here to really make a difference to do something where the people of these neighborhoods...can feel like there's hope and opportunity in this new building," he said. "We have a real opportunity to do something special here on the East Side...because of all the land that the district owns around Bancroft."
State Representative Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D- Wilmington) said he had seen beautiful new school buildings in other districts and parts of the state.
In Wilmington, "sadly I can name schools that have mold. Sadly I can name schools that have mildew and mice - children and teachers who miss a lofty amount of days due to health issues and respiratory problems," Chukwuocha said. "That's where we are in the City of Wilmington."
Stubbs Early Education Center Principal Dr. Whitney Williams has been employed in the Christina School District for almost 25 years. She has worked in the Bayard and Bancroft schools as well.
"The challenges that affect our community at large exist in the areas of low income, unemployment and high crime. There's a lot we're hearing now about trauma that exists as a result of those circumstances," Williams said. "It's been challenging to have the children to be able to come in ready."
Wali Rushdan, Wilmington's appointed member on the State Board of Education, said community support would likely take some time to build.
"I think time will tell. I think once folks really see the work, the infrastructure come into existence they'll continue to gain confidence," Rushdan said.
"It's a process."