New Bush Early Education Center FAQ
What is the Bush School?
The Charles W. Bush Early Education Center has a long and proud tradition of offering Brandywine's youngest learners with high-quality preschool programming. Our three and four-year-old classrooms are designed to provide stimulating learning environments where students with special needs learn, interact, and grow with peers without special needs.
Why is there a need for a new Bush school?
Simply put, we are out of room. Bush is currently located in a portion of Hanby Elementary School. For the past several years, the number of students with and without disabilities has exceeded program capacity, resulting in limiting services to half-day programs instead of full-day programs like sister districts. Two years ago, the District turned the Bush physical education space and a conference room into classrooms. This year, the District was forced to repurpose Hanby Elementary's Computer Lab into a preschool room and moved several administrative offices specific to Bush off-site to alternate locations. Even with these adjustments, we cannot provide full-day services to students and have students on waitlists for spots that won't materialize.
Why hasn't the District done something about the need before now?
The District formally began the work of advocating for additional space for preschool programming six years ago. During that time, the District made several requests to the Delaware Department of Education submitting the required "Certificate of Necessity" proposal and supporting documentation. The Department of Education prioritizes expanding student populations in all districts across the State, and Brandywine's Certificate of Necessity was finally approved in June 2021.
I heard that the new Bush School would serve more than just Brandywine students. Is that true?
Yes, the school will primarily serve students that are residents of the District, but will also serve children in neighboring zip codes who don't have access to any public, private, or parochial preschool programming before entering Kindergarten. [CLICK HERE for the zip code data on students without access to preschool programming.]
Will BSD residents' taxes go up to build and support a school that also serves non-BSD students?
Thanks to the support of BSD's local State Representatives and Senators led by Rep. Deb Heffernan, the new Bush Early Childhood Center has been given 'special school status.' This special school status means the State provides 100% of the construction costs. Without special school status, the District would need to hold a capital referendum and ask Brandywine residents to pay approximately 40% of the project, about $20 million.
The State uses tax dollars raised by all Delaware taxpayers to provide its portion of new capital projects. If not used here in Brandywine for the new Bush Early Education Center, these capital funds would have been applied elsewhere in the State for capital projects. For students who reside outside the District but attend Bush the student's home district must pay a tuition fee to cover the cost of the educational services provided.
How big will the new Bush Early Education Center need to be?
A preschool's design and structure are far different from that of an elementary, middle, or high school. All preschool classrooms need to be on ground level to ensure students' safe and easy means of egress. Any rooms on the second floor would be administrative and adult-oriented. Classrooms must be spacious for interactive learning and to accommodate devices to assist students with ambulatory issues and other assistive technology. The proposed plans also call for a therapy pool and several Kindergarten-prep classrooms (students who have exited preschool but need additional assistance before heading into Kindergarten).
Preliminary plans estimate the total square footage of the building to be approximately 75,000 square feet, comparable to the size of the existing Hanby Elementary School. The District would also need additional structures to accommodate outside lawn equipment storage and a public restroom for outdoor events. [CLICK HERE to see an estimate of the footprint of the school compared to the land being donated.]
Does the District own any large parcels with a suitable landscape to accommodate such a building?
Yes and no. The District does own and maintains several open parcels of land, such as the old Brandywood Elementary site and a larger portion of land by Bechtel Park. The Brandywood site is too small and would require a multi-level building design not compatible for a preschool. The Bechtel Park area is full of boulders and not a suitable building location. The District does have other larger parcels that could accommodate such a structure, but they are currently in use by community youth sports leagues.
Why is the Brandywine Country Club Property so attractive as a building site?
The offer of 40 acres to a school district in northern New Castle County is a rare event. The ability to meet our immediate need for buildable land coupled with additional acreage for recreation or future needs is almost too good to be true. The location is centralized, not too far north or south relative to District feeder patterns, and easily accessible from multiple directions by personal vehicle and public transportation. The original Bush School was located on Rt. 202, about 2 miles away from the BCC property.
Is it true that another group is advocating against the donation to the District?
Yes, the District has met with a small CCoBH workgroup several times over the past year and a half. Workgroup members shared three main reasons why CCoBH at large opposed the donation of the land to the District.
1. Lack of available parks. Some workgroup members continue to express their opposition to the land being used for a school, citing the need for additional public parks for the immediate area. Please CLICK HERE for a Google Earth view of the existing parks around the Brandywine Country Club.
2. Lack of green space. CLICK HERE is a Google Earth view showing the amount of green space surrounding the property's immediate area. CLICK HERE for a Google Earth view of the same size, showing green space just a few miles away.
3. Traffic on Shipley Road. Unfortunately, no records exist that show the amount of traffic generated by the Brandywine Country Club golfers, swimmers, and event attendees when the business was still in operation. An initial traffic impact study was done based on the developer's by-right plan; in other words, how much traffic would be generated if the approved homes and structures would be built if not donated to the District. A study was also conducted to determine the amount of traffic generated by the staff and student population of a preschool at the proposed size and enrollment capacity. The results show that the school would create less traffic than the developer building homes according to his by-right approved plan.
In a public meeting, New Castle Council Countyperson Dee Durham previously stated that she has constituents that would rather have the by-right structures built with more traffic than building a school and having less traffic.
4. Deed Restrictions. Some members insist that the Developer place deed restrictions on the property before donating the property to the District and that CCoBH is the entitled owner of the deed restrictions. The District is opposed to a third party having control over how the District can use its property upon transfer of the property and in perpetuity. Members of the workgroup submitted a list of deed restrictions that the District would need to be accepted to receive the property donation. In a good faith effort and with the desire of accommodating residents if possible, the District agreed that some of the requests were reasonable and was willing to include them as "notes on the plan" when approved by New Castle County. Notes on the plan are legally binding and require the District to go through the County's prescribed process should the District seek to deviate from what was previously submitted and approved.
Several of the submitted deed restrictions could not be agreed to as notes on the plan. They were too restrictive, either limiting the size of the building needed or restricting the District's ability to meet the future needs of the students and community we serve.