Buckingham Next Up On School List After Decatur Middle

Buckingham Next Up On School List After Decatur Middle
Buckingham Elementary's enrollment is expected to swell from the current 487 to 565 by 2030. File Photo

BERLIN – With Showell Elementary School complete and renovations at Stephen Decatur Middle set to start this month, officials are now planning for the replacement of Buckingham Elementary.

Following some roof repair projects in Snow Hill, the Worcester County Public Schools latest capital improvement program (CIP) lists Buckingham as the next school scheduled for replacement.

“A new school is needed since currently all classroom and auxiliary spaces are being utilized instructionally,” Principal Christina Welch said. “When we added our full day pre-kindergarten 4 to our school this year, we maxed out any extra space. Meeting with teachers, parents, and students is a challenge since all space is being utilized for instruction.”

Buckingham, where enrollment has reached 487, houses fourth grade students in portable classrooms — trailers — behind the school. Enrollment could be up to 565 by 2030, according to the CIP.

“There have been no additions or renovations executed at the school over the 45-year life of BES,” the CIP reads. “During the 2020-21 school year, Buckingham Elementary operated at 120% of Local Rated Capacity and 90% of State Rated Capacity.”

Staff at the school also struggle with storage space, as two containers in the back of the school are being used to store excess furniture and supplies. The distancing required to stop the spread of COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue.

“Classrooms, especially with social distancing, are at capacity,” Welch said.

Though teachers and students are anxious to see a new school on the site, Buckingham, with an estimated cost of $66 million, is on the list of future projects in the CIP. Following roof replacements at Snow Hill Middle School and Cedar Chapel Special School, funding for Buckingham is set for fiscal year 2026 and 2027 in the CIP.  A feasibility study is scheduled to begin in July 2022 to evaluate building and site conditions.

The Worcester County Commissioners, who approved the CIP last week, questioned the school system’s decision to focus on Buckingham rather than Pocomoke Elementary School, which was built the same year. Joe Price, the school system’s facilities planner, said that decision was based on scoring.

“We have a facilities assessment program where we rank every school…,” he said. “The lowest score right now is Buckingham, the second lowest is Snow Hill Elementary and Pocomoke is the third. We look at age of roof, age of HVAC, how many portables they have, and give points for everything.”

In response to concern about trailers, Price said the school system was gradually eliminating them.

“We’ve gone from 56 eight years ago to 20 right now,” he said. “When we do Decatur Middle we’ll lose nine and then Buckingham another five.”

A groundbreaking for the Stephen Decatur Middle School addition, which will add a new wing to the school, is scheduled for Nov. 17. Construction is slated to be complete by December 2022.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.