Buckingham Elementary School is next up on the major project list for the Worcester County school system project list. This will be a massive and expensive undertaking, costing about $73 million for the chosen direction — a new school with the current one demolished. This was a huge decision by the Worcester County Board of Education.
The replacement plan was favored over an addition/renovation concept that would have cost $82 million but resulted in a larger school space, about 125,000 square feet. The new replacement school would total 102,000 square feet and include a two-story section. Construction likely will not begin until 2027.
Between now and when ground is broken, much could change as far as the project details. One aspect that certainly deserves a deeper dive is the proposed bus loop, student dropoff and parking areas. Under the current plan buses would use a loop off Main Street, while parents would access the school from West Street through roads built in the long field at the back of the school. It’s a strange layout but officials seem convinced there’s plenty of time for changes.
Ocean City is making the right call with reinstating the ride option at Winterfest of Lights. The pivot to the pedestrian concept in 2000 was wise as a result of the pandemic and largely embraced by many at the time and even this past holiday season.
However, by not offering the trams, the event is largely alienating an older segment of society unable physically or just unwilling to walk through the display. My group of six went to Winterfest on an evening in December. Two members of our group in their 70s did not walk through the event because one had a bad back at the time and the other lacked the stamina to walk beyond short distances.
A hybrid Winterfest of Lights will hit well with all segments of society. It will likely restore the participant volume to previous levels before the pandemic. This year’s attendance of 104,000 was impacted by weather but rivals what was seen in 2018. History shows Winterfest had larger draws in 2017, 106,067; 2016, 111,052; and 2015, 127,000.
Instating a hybrid model with a ¾-mile tram ride and a half-mile walking path will be cheered by attendees. It will surely bring in larger paid attendance and offer something for everyone, from senior citizens to the youngest patrons. A good formula for the future seems to be in place with offering the two modes of enjoyment of the lights and plans for a larger tented area with new activities.
Seven whale deaths in recent weeks in the mid-Atlantic is reason for concern. Is it just the natural cycle of life or are other factors at play? Marine Mammal Stranding Center Director Sheila Dean called this year a high-mortality year but not unprecedented. She said, “It just comes in cycles. It depends on how many whales are in the area, and I’m going to attribute it to that. There are a lot of whales in our area now.”
I don’t think it’s that simple, but it would be unfair to place the blame squarely on wind farm companies as well. Reached this week, both US Wind and Ørsted said they have not conducted ocean surveys since the spring of 2022. US Wind Senior Director of Environmental Affairs Laurie Jodziewicz said, “When US Wind conducted these surveys in 2021 and early 2022, we, like other offshore wind developers, used third-party Protected Species observers, who are trained and approved by NOAA to detect protected species like whales. … There is no evidence that the whale strandings have anything to do with current offshore wind activity off the coast.” Ørsted Deputy Head of Government Affairs and Marketing Strategy Maddy Voytek said, “Ørsted is not conducting survey activity for Skipjack Wind at this time. Ørsted-contracted vessels concluded surveys off the Delaware coast in the spring of 2022 and did not experience any marine mammal strikes during their activities. It’s important for all ocean users to continue working with state and federal officials to further advance science-based, smart policies that protect critical wildlife while addressing climate change.”
The fact is nobody knows yet what is causing these deaths. Nonetheless, the sensitives expressed this week are understandable, especially considering there is a right whale speed reduction mandate currently being reviewed by NOAA.
Grief hit the local community once again last weekend with the passing of 5-year-old Lakelyn Draheim from an aggressive brain cancer. Schools around the county honored Lakelyn this week by wearing her favorite color, pink, on selected days. Over the last year since her diagnosis, the community has rallied around the little girl and the entire Draheim family as her battle stayed on the minds of many.
Her passing confirms the significance of the Stephen Decatur High School student body recognizing her as Homecoming Princess last fall. Also recognized as Homecoming King was Josh Alton, who passed away in November after an extended battle with Metastatic Ewing’s Sarcoma. On that night when Alton and Draheim were honored, there was a recognition of their difficult health journeys. It seemed to be known their time was limited. The realities played out as expected. Alton would pass seven weeks later. Draheim died three months later. The little girl’s services will be held at Showell Elementary tonight and tomorrow.